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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 2, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 36
California adopts youth suicide prevention plan
Section One
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California adopts youth suicide prevention plan

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The California legislature passed a new law on August 30 requiring the state's schools to make and implement suicide prevention plans for students in grades 7-12.

The bill, known as AB 2246, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

The measure would require local school districts and individual schools to devise suicide prevention policies targeting high-risk students. The state's Department of Education would develop a model plan to serve as a guide for the local districts.

The bill also requires training for teachers in grades 7-12 so they can identify mental health services within the school and the community and refer youth and their families to those services.

Needs of youth requiring counseling because they are bereaved by suicide are also addressed in the law, including youth with disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse disorders, youth experiencing homelessness or in the foster care system, and LGBT youth.

The bill's sponsor, California Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell, said he got the idea for the legislation from LGBT groups Equality California and the Trevor Project. 'Statistically, we know that LGBT youth are more susceptible to suicide,' O'Donnell said.

'It was a natural fit, given that I've been a middle school and high school teacher for many years, and I'm very aware that many of our youth struggle with a variety of issues, and that they are vulnerable to suicide.'

O'Donnell said he hopes the new law will help save the lives of at-risk youth.

'As classroom teacher, I know from experience that educators often serve as the first line of defense when a student is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts,' said O'Donnell who is also chair of the California Assembly's Education Committee.

Current state law only 'encourages' school districts to have anti-suicide plans in place but does not require it.

'In spite of the sobering statistics on youth suicide, California lags behind many other states in requiring school districts to have suicide prevention policies in place,' said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California.

If Brown signs the measure into law, California will become the first state in the country to require middle and high school policies on suicide prevention for LGBT and other at-risk populations.

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