California passes legislation requiring suicide prevention policies in schools statewide

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California is now the first state in the county to require suicide prevention policies in middle schools and high schools statewide.

Assembly Bill 2246 “Suicide Prevention Policies in School,” authored by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) and sponsored by Equality California and The Trevor Project, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown  Tuesday.

The new law requires local district schools to adopt unique suicide prevention, intervention and follow-up plans for students in grades 7 to 12.

Policymakers hope the law will save lives and reduce the statistics of what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calls the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.

“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 in a statement. “AB 2246 will provide parents, teachers and schools with the tools they need to help save the lives of at-risk youth.”

These policies will specifically target “at-risk groups” for suicide which include youth with disabilities, mental illness or substance abuse disorders; youth experiencing homeless or out-of-home settings; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

The suicide prevention policies will be developed at the district level with suicide prevention experts, schools and community stakeholders and school mental health professionals.  This will allow districts to create and implement programs that will be effective for their communities.

“With the first state law in the nation to require middle and high school suicide prevention education that specifically requires attention to the needs of LGBTQ youth, California can now serve as a model for schools nationally,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, in a press release.

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