Hart Board to review new policy on suicide prevention

The William S Hart Union High School District office. Dan Watson/The Signal

To align with a new California law requiring suicide prevention policies in middle schools and high schools statewide, the William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board is expected to review a new board policy on the topic at its meeting Wednesday.

The California law stems from Assembly Bill 2246 “Suicide Prevention Policies in School,” which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown Sept. 27 and will take effect at the start of the 2017-18 school year.

The new policy requires local school districts to adopt unique suicide prevention, intervention and follow-up plans for students in grades 7 to 12.  It also targets “at-risk groups” for suicide and allows districts to develop their own policies to better fit the needs of their communities.

On Wednesday, the Hart District will conduct the first reading of its own board policy on the topic titled “Suicide Prevention.”

“The governing board recognizes that suicide is a leading cause of death among youth and the school personnel who regularly interact with students are often in a position to recognize the warning sides of suicide and to offer appropriate referral and/or assistance,” the board policy read.

The policy outlines preventative measures and procedures to follow to prevent, intervene and respond to student suicide threats and attempts.

In the prevention category, the policy states that teachers, counselors and other district employees who interact with students will all be trained by the district’s counseling services to identify risk factors and speak to students about the topic.

At the school level, health education classes will promote the healthy mental, emotional and social development of students and will incorporate suicide prevention instruction into the curriculum at the “appropriate grades.”

District staff will also receive research and information about “high-risk” students as well as information on how to identify high-risk behaviors.

When a suicide threat is reported or attempted, staff are instructed to immediately secure medical treatment and/or mental health services for the individual.

The intervention policy will also require staff to notify law enforcement and other emergency assistance if an act is being threatened and to keep the student under continuous adult supervision until a parent, guardian or support agency can intervene.

The policy also state that other students should be removed from the area as soon as possible.

In the event that a student dies by suicide, the superintendent or “designee” will communicate with the student’s parents or guardians to “offer condolences, assistance and resources.”

The superintendent will also consult with the parents or guardians about the facts that may be shared with other students, parents and guardians and staff.

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