to the Senator
My name is Maureen Fitzpatrick and I am the mother of Daniel Joseph Fitzpatrick, the 13 year-old boy who died by suicide on August 11th 2016. His death is the direct result of the relentless bullying he experienced at Holy Angels Catholic Academy, a continuous stream of unimaginable physical, mental, verbal, and emotional abuse. My son Danny was a very gentle and kind boy, who had the right to attend school in a safe environment without being subject to such constant abuse. This kind of trauma stunts the growth of a student socially, emotionally, and academically.
Bullying is an epidemic that plagues our country and takes the lives of our youth. According to the CDC (and not surprisingly) bullying has been correlated with suicide. They have also reported a rise in suicide in middle school age children, with documented cases of children taking their own lives as young as 8 years of age. This loss of innocent life is senseless and true travesty.
We have to do better. We must do better to eradicate this plague from the devastation it causes in our society. I am writing to ask your support in helping NY State Bill #6438 become law, because all students have a civil right to attend school without fear, abuse or discrimination.
This bill calls for an amendment to the current bully law in New York state by removing the section 17 subdivision, which clearly exempts all parochial, private, and charter school children from the same rights of protection under the Dignity Care Act for All Students. All parents are mandated by law to educate their children, so the Dignity Care Act for All Students Act should be agnostic with relation to the kind of school their child chooses to attend.
I believe that had this law been applicable to my son's school, that Danny would still be alive today. When we fail in providing our youth with a safe educational environment, we are doing immeasurable disservice and damage, preventing them from reaching their full potential as future contributing members of society. Bullying behavior that goes unaddressed is similarly a disservice to the bully themselves. Bullies, often, are children who are fighting their own demons, and their expression of aggression is a call for help. Placing protocols to help identify and promote intervention that identifies the root cause of the problem can mitigate the effects of bullying. This, in turn, will have positive downstream effects in our society. We can begin by correcting this flaw in the state bully law, and providing clear protection for all students. Only then can we truly make strides in ending the epidemic of bullying. I am personally requesting a meeting with you to discuss this bill, and asking for an opportunity to tell you my son Danny’s story as he would want it told.
Before Danny succumbed to the inescapable and haunting pain, he wrote a letter about his story intended for people in office--our lawmakers--to read in the hopes of affecting change. I told my son I would help him with this before he passed away. I told him he had to write a letter himself so his story would be heard and understood. He wrote a rough draft of a letter he never did complete. I remember that day so very clearly. He said “Mom, I want them to hear my story, please tell everyone my story." We tried everything we could as parents; we went to the principal multiple times, we took him to a private therapist, a psychiatrist, his pediatrician, and even the police in the end.
As parents, we had no way to protect our son--not even the law as it is written could help us. I do not want any other family to endure the tragedy that my family has suffered. This loss has irrevocably changed our lives forever. When Danny died a part of all of us died that day. Bullying that goes unaddressed in school puts stress on all family members as well as the victim, because no one wants to see their loved one suffer abuse of any kind. I respectfully request a meeting with you so that I can share my son’s letter. I know his voice and story is one that he would have very much wanted you to hear.
I appreciate your time and consideration on this pressing matter, which is stealing lives everyday. Instead of being indifferent, lets be the difference!