Aiming to reduce teen suicide in New Jersey, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Pamela Lampitt and Eliana Pintor Marin to expand suicide prevention, awareness and response training for school district personnel was approved Thursday by the Assembly Education Committee.
“Teen suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24, exceeded only by homicide and accidents,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “It’s essential that we ensure the teachers and school staff who interact with students on a daily basis are trained to identify troubling scenarios and respond appropriately.”
The bill (A-3408) would require school district employees not subject to current professional development requirements on suicide prevention, as well as employees of a contracted service provider, who have regular and direct contact with students as determined by the board of education, to complete a one-time training program in suicide prevention, awareness, and response developed or identified by the Department of Education. Currently, public school staff members are required to undergo two hours of training over a five year period.
“One in five teenagers in the U.S. seriously considers suicide annually, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That is one too many,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Suicide is preventable. We must equip all suitable school employees to spot the warning signs so we can intervene before it is too late.”
The measure would also direct the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Human Services, the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council, suicide prevention experts, and interested stakeholders in the education community to:
1) develop or identify training programs on suicide prevention, awareness, and response that persons subject to the bill’s training requirements may access and complete free of charge; and
2) develop an educational fact sheet on suicide prevention, awareness, and response, to be made available on the department’s website and distributed at no charge to all school districts.
“Sadly many young people who are bullied don’t see a way out when the harassment is constant and ruthless,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “Students spend a large chunk of their time in school. It makes sense that all employees who come in contact with students are able to recognize signs of trouble so they can step in before a student follows through with suicidal thoughts.”
Additionally, each school district and contracted service provider must annually provide to employees the educational fact sheet and guidelines on the school district’s reporting and suicide prevention, awareness, and response protocols, including contact information for staff who should be notified whenever an employee believes a student may be at risk for suicide.
The measure specifies that a person will not have a cause of action for any loss or damage caused by any act or omission resulting from the implementation of the bill’s provisions.
The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.