Mother of Fridley Boy Who Killed Himself Speaks Out Against Anti-Bullying Bill

Updated: 02/24/2014 1:40 PM By: Stephen Tellier

If there is one issue mothers and fathers across Minnesota should be following when the legislative session begins on Tuesday, it is this one.

An anti-bullying bill will soon be up for debate in the state Senate. The goal is to protect all children from bullying and make our schools safer. But one mother whose child was bullied into committing suicide is speaking out against that bill.

"He had a good personality. He was very friendly with people, loved learning," said Kathy Trosvik, whose son, Tom, was a 5th grader at Fridley Middle School in 2006.

"He loved the teachers. They were great. Everything was going well for him," Trosvik said.

Trosvik said her son only once mentioned a girl had been teasing him -- and she was told that issue had been resolved.

Then, the unthinkable.

"He came off the bus, he threw his backpack down in the house, and went out to our barn and took his life," Trosvik said.

Losing a child is every parent's worst nightmare. But losing a 12-year-old child, in that way...

"It completely rips you apart. No, it's like taking a jigsaw puzzle, a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, and throwing it up in the air, and then you're supposed to go and try to find all those pieces. No, you're never the same ever again," Trosvik said.

Trosvik said there weren't any other warning signs.

"He came home happy from school," Trosvik said. "As a mom, you go through afterwards, and you're just kind of like, 'What did I miss?' I still to this day can't come up with anything."

Only after Tom's death did his mother learn more about what caused it.

"The kids on the school bus had been telling him different ways that he could take his life," Trosvik said.

That's what Tom's bus driver told her the day after he died.

"She just looked at me, and she said, 'Didn't you know? He said he was going to. The kids were so mean,'" Trosvik said. "At first, I was just shocked. It's like, 'What? There was something more going on, and I didn't know?'"

If any child shows the need to combat bullying in Minnesota's schools, it is Tom.

But his mother is against the Safe and Supportive Schools Act.

"This is not a bully bill. It's not going to protect kids," Trosvik said.

Her biggest concern is the bill's "presumption" that a school will notify the parent of bullying incidents, unless "notifying the parent is not in the best interest of the student."

"Parents need to be notified. It shouldn't be an option -- it's not an option," Trosvik said.

The bill also specifically forbids bullying based on race, religion, physical appearance, sexual orientation, and several other categories. Trosvik said her son doesn't fit into any of them.

"It should be just a blanket statement: All children are protected," Trosvik said.

Now, she's voicing her concerns in a new commercial, urging lawmakers to vote no.

When asked whether the bill would have helped her son if it had been law in 2006, Trosvik replied, "No, it wouldn't have done anything for Tom. Tom still would have come home off that bus, I wouldn't have known anything about it, even then, he would have taken his life. Nobody reported anything. Nobody did anything. So how could this bill have helped him?"

Trosvik said also fears the anonymous reporting allowed in the bill could turn into a new kind of bullying, through false accusations. Other opponents also say the bill would strip school districts of their independence.

Supporters say these concerns are unfounded. They point to Minnesota's current bullying law -- one of the nation's weakest, and just 37 words long -- and say the bill would turn Minnesota's law into one of the strongest. They argue the bill provides a clear definition of bullying, training for students and staff, and specific procedures to follow when bullying occurs.