Lawmaker wants to beef up suicide prevention training in schools
Kentucky School Advocate
By Madelynn Coldiron
The 2018 General Assembly will consider legislation that would increase suicide prevention training in schools. State Rep. Regina Bunch (R-Williamsburg) has pre-filed a bill that would require more in-depth training in suicide prevention for school administrators, staff and teachers.
Bunch said she took the step after reading an article that cited alarming figures nationally for student suicide rates. “That got me to looking at the situation,” she said, and then the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why (see related story, page 11) reinforced her desire to do more.
Many students don’t have support at home – sometimes due to parents struggling with an addiction – which leaves the school as a place of support, she said. “I think there are so many things they’re dealing with and too often they’re dealing with alone.”
“Since they spend a significant amount of time in school, I wanted to ensure that teachers and school personnel had effective training, the skills and the confidence to know what they’re looking for, empower them to feel comfortable reporting this and know the resources available to assist them should they see a situation where there’s signs,” explained Bunch, a retired special education teacher.
Currently, there are two 2010 state laws governing suicide prevention training, requiring:
• All high school and middle school principals, guidance counselors and teachers to complete a minimum of two hours of self-study review of suicide prevention materials each school year, and permitting suicide prevention training for classified employees.
• The Cabinet for Health and Family Services to post suicide prevention awareness and training information on its webpage. It also requires public middle and high school administrators to disseminate suicide prevention awareness information to all middle and high school students by Sept. 1 every year.
The current self-study – or online – option does not go far enough, Bunch said. Her bill would require two hours of in-person suicide prevention training every other year for middle and high school principals, guidance counselors and teachers. The training would start in 2018-19 and would be incorporated into the four days of required professional development.
“This is something that’s purposeful and could be life-saving,” Bunch said. “I think it will make teachers feel more comfortable in their assessment and looking at the risk.”