The family of a 17-year-old California high school student sued by a classmate who allegedly made terrorist threats says legislators must protect children from potential litigation if they want them to speak out about violence.

“Why should they come forward when they’re going to be faced with legal bills that are insurmountable?” Kim Tapia, mother of Kristina Tapia, said about students coming forward with information.

Kristina Tapia and her family support AB 717, which was introduced in March. The bill would exempt students, their families, teachers, and school officials from liability for reporting threats.

Tapia informed administrators at Quartz Hill High School in Lancaster, Calif., that classmate David Belisle made threats shortly after the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Belisle was expelled from the school and charged with making terrorist threats and intimidating a witness. A juvenile court judge ordered him to serve six months’ probation and the charges were dismissed.

Belisle sued Tapia and her family for defamation. A judge threw out the suit, but not before the family incurred a $40,000 legal bill they say they are have trouble paying.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in March that the Antelope Valley Union High School District and the Los Angeles County Office of Education aren’t responsible for the family’s legal bills.