SALT LAKE CITY — Bud Peterson thinks a simple phone call from someone at school could have saved the life of his son, Buddy.
But the phone call never came, and Buddy Peterson took his life on Jan. 13, 2013, a suicide spurred by bullying at a Salt Lake City-area school.
Bud Peterson insists if he or his wife, Karen, had known about the bullying, they could have done something to intervene in their son’s life.
“Had we had that, my son would still be here. All we’re asking for is a phone call. If a phone call can save a life, isn’t it worth it?” Peterson asked.
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Harrisville, has initiated legislation to ensure that phone call occurs. HB 134 would require schools to notify parents when educators become aware of a potential suicide threat.
Froerer said teen suicide and bullying are rampant in Utah schools, and he pointed out that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers. Utah ranks 10th in the U.S. in the number of teen suicides.
“It’s not just a school problem, not just a parent problem, it’s an issue we all must face,” Froerer said.
The bill was heard in a House committee Thursday and is being held, pending further review. A similar measure, SB 184, sponsored by Sen. Luz Robles,
D-Salt Lake City, has already passed the Senate.
Several lawmakers objected to a provision requiring schools to get a parental signature when those calls are made, and they also wondered if the parents of bullies shouldn’t be notified about being part of the problem.
Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, worried about the bill and its impact on the role of the state Board of Education, as outlined in the state Constitution.
“I don’t think we should use the force of law to overstep our bounds and tell them how to do their job,” Nielson said.
Rep. Steven Eliason, R-Sandy, said the growing number of suicides in the state represents a critical problem for Utah schools.
“It’s time we put the interest of our children first. As a policymaker, I’m not going to have the blood of our precious children on my hands,” Eliason said.
Peter Cannon, a member of the Davis School Board, said the requirement that local schools get a parental signature to acknowledge being notified of a problem could be an issue, questioning if parents will be wiling to sign the notification.
He also suggested the measure should be more focused on suicide and not treat all factors, such as hazing and harassment, the same as the threat of