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SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblymembers Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) and Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) introduced legislation aimed at preventing student suicide, the second leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds.
“Schools are on the front lines of suicide prevention,” said Assemblymember Berman. “It is imperative that teachers and all school staff have the tools they need to be trained to recognize the warning signs and respond appropriately. This legislation will support our schools’ efforts to improve suicide awareness and prevent further tragedies.”
AB 2639 would direct the California Department of Education to identify evidence-based, online suicide prevention training programs and provide funding to make the identified training available to school staff and students at all public schools serving students in grades 7 to 12, including charter schools. The training program must address the needs of high-risk groups such as youth bereaved by suicide; youth with disabilities, mental illness, or substance use disorders; youth experiencing homelessness or in foster care; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth.
“LGBTQ youth are at very high risk for suicide, and that risk is magnified even further for young people who are members of one or more additional high-risk communities,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California. “This legislation will save young lives by making funding available for training that focuses on high-risk students and intervention strategies so teachers and school staff will know how to help when they see a young person in crisis.”
Students spend roughly 1,000 hours per year in school. Given the amount of time that school staff spend with students, they are in a prime position to recognize the warning signs of suicide. The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention recognizes the unique position of teachers and other school staff in preventing suicide and specifically states that teachers and school counselors should receive suicide prevention training.
“As a parent, a teacher, and as Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, the well-being of our students is always a top priority for me,” Assemblymember O’Donnell said. “This measure is an effort to better equip our teachers and staff to support our students and ensure their safety.”
In 2016, AB 2246 (O’Donnell) was signed into law requiring schools serving students in grades 7 to 12 to adopt a suicide prevention policy. AB 2639 builds upon this legislation and takes the next step in offering schools a convenient way to train school staff at no cost to them.
“As the nation’s leading provider of crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project proudly stands with Assemblymembers Berman and O’Donnell to provide the critical next step in California’s leadership in the prevention of suicide,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.
Assemblymember Marc Berman represents the 24th Assembly District, which includes southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
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Vice President of Communications