Clark Flatt, a national advocate for suicide prevention and the founder of The Jason Foundation, an organization that provides more than 200,000 teacher trainings a year around the country, said push back to this type of legislation isn’t uncommon — at first.
Michigan law encourages teacher training in suicide prevention but doesn’t mandate it.
Still, Flatt said, teachers are often first responders to students in crisis.
“You can look at a legislative body and say, ‘This training will save lives,'” Flatt said.
‘It’s very frustrating’
According to local coroner reports, 16 people ages 25 and younger died by suicide last year in Ingham and Eaton counties.
That’s more than double the number of people in the same age group who died by suicide five years ago in the two counties.
Hertel said two meetings with Pavlov got his bill no closer to a hearing or a vote.
“It’s very frustrating,” Hertel said. “I have no idea why we have not taken action.”
Pavlov didn’t return messages from the State Journal.
Singh said he requested a hearing for House Bill 4772, but Kelly, chair of the state House Education Reform Committee, declined to grant it.
Nancy Bareham, Kelly’s legislative director, said Wednesday that Kelly didn’t advance the bill because a separate piece of legislation, House Bill 5524, offered a more comprehensive approach to teacher training.
The measure, which has since been passed by the State House, requires the development and adoption of a “mental health first aid” course for teachers.
According to that bill “the professional development course developed or adopted…may be counted toward” professional development. It has not been adopted by the Senate.
Not a partisan issue
Flatt said, although state legislators often worry about providing funding for additional required teacher training, The Jason Foundation offers training at no cost to school districts in 20 states where “The Jason Flatt Act” has been adopted.
The measure mandates teachers receive a certain amount of suicide-prevention training annually.
Suicide education shouldn’t be a partisan issue, said State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who supports Hertel’s bill.
“I think school personnel should be trained to look for signs,” Jones said.
Teachers would likely welcome that training, said David Crim, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association.
Crim said the “vast majority” of the association’s more than 100,000 members would view the required training as a helpful tool. He believes the training could not only help stem youth suicide but also address some instances of school violence.
“Given the seriousness of this, we’re supportive of any measure that can address the crisis,” Crim said.
Flatt said he took notice of both Michigan bills last summer when they were introduced. He said it can take a state years to adopt the necessary suicide prevention training for teachers.
It’s a worthwhile effort, he said.
“I have never heard a competent excuse given to me about why these pieces of legislation shouldn’t move forward,” Flatt said.
Hertel, who was reelected in November, said he plans to reintroduce his bill in the Senate next year.
“This is not an issue that I’m going to shrink away from. I’ve met too many families. There’s no possible way I could walk away from this issue.”