(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Pamela Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Eliana Pintor Marin and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to extend suicide prevention education to school district employees who don’t currently receive it – in an effort to curb teen suicide – was released earlier this week by an Assembly panel.
Under current law, public school teaching staff members receive instruction in suicide prevention as part of their professional development requirements. This bill would require school district employees who are not subject to the current professional development requirement, 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.
“Teen suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Singleton ((D-Burlington). “It is imperative that all school employees who have regular contact with students receive suicide prevention instruction so they are able to respond adequately when a troubling situation emerges.”
The bill (A-313) 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.
“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). “The only silver lining here is that suicide is preventable. We must equip all suitable school employees to spot the warning signs so we can intervene before it is too late.”
“It’s important that every employee in a school is trained to speak with students about preventing suicide,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Very often, students build trusted relationships with support staff and rely on them for different types of guidance. Extending these tools and knowledge to all staff will save lives.”
“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.”
“As much as they would like to, parents cannot monitor their children 24/7,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We must educate the other adults who are around and actively involved in the lives of young people to be cognizant of any troubling signs, so that we can identify and help students struggling with suicidal thoughts. It takes a village not only to raise a child, but to save a child’s life.”
Under the bill’s provisions, each school district and contracted service provider must annually provide to its 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 bill 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 measure was released by the Assembly Education Committee on June 20.