California Legislature Approves Youth Suicide Prevention Bill
The California Assembly late yesterday approved a bill that would require the adoption of comprehensive suicide prevention plans by local California school districts for students attending grades 7-12. Assembly Bill (AB) 2246 was previously approved by the Senate and now goes to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. The bill was authored by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) and sponsored by Equality California and The Trevor Project.
“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 Assemblymember O’Donnell, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. “AB 2246 will provide parents, teachers and schools with the tools they need to help save the lives of at-risk youth.”
Current California Education Code encourages schools to adopt suicide prevention policies, but does not require them. AB 2246 would require school districts to adopt guidelines for suicide prevention, intervention, and follow-up. These plans would be developed together with suicide prevention experts, parents, student advocates and school mental health professionals. The bill also would require the state Department of Education to develop a model plan to serve as a guide for local districts.
“In spite of the sobering statistics on youth suicide, California lags behind many other states in requiring school districts to have suicide prevention policies in place,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “With LGBT youth up to four times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their non-LGBT peers, AB 2246 will save young LGBT lives.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24. Some 17 percent of students in grades 9-12 report having seriously considered suicide, and eight percent report having actually attempted suicide one or more times in the past 12 months. Nearly 20 percent of young people who access resources at The Trevor Project are from California.
“We’re thrilled that California can become the first state in the country to require middle and high school policies on suicide prevention for LGBTQ and other at-risk populations,” said Abbe Land, executive director of The Trevor Project. “Just a couple of weeks ago, the first nationally representative sample of the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey was released, and it showed that lesbian, bisexual and questioning youth attempt suicide at over three times the rate of heterosexual youth. With the passage of AB 2246, California has answered this implicit call to action to drive these shocking statistics down. We owe a great debt of gratitude for Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell for spearheading this bill and we look forward to the governor’s signature.”