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Bret Hanna
Bret Hanna
Attorney • 435-649-2525

Utah Legislature Looks at Suicide Prevention Classes for Schools

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The Utah Legislature is in session and that can mean many things to many people; often encouraging and often discouraging, depending on one's perspective. But one bill moving through the legislative process that is akin to making sausage certainly cannot be controversial for most.

HB298 was passed out of the House yesterday and currently resides with the Senate Rules Committee, which has heard a first reading. House sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason, R – Sandy, was approached several years back by a grief stricken father dealing with the suicide aftermath of his middle school aged son. The bill is aimed at implementing parent seminars in school districts statewide on suicide awareness and prevention, pornography, Internet safety, bullying, mental health and substance abuse.

In promoting the bill, Rep. Eliason has noted that suicide is the second leading killer of Utah youths. In response, HB298 would require the state school board to develop a curriculum on the identified issues which local districts, in turn, could offer to parents. If the local districts opt out of offering the seminars, they will be required to notify the state school board and justify the opt out.

One member of the House Education Committee, Rep. Jim Nielsen, R – Bountiful, was not so enthusiastic because of the "burden" it imposes on schools. "We always see a tragedy and feel a desire to respond. The question I have is, can government fix these things? Can schools do it?" Given that the fiscal note prepared for the bill indicates that the cost to districts for implementing the seminars is somewhere between $0 and $4,000 per year, it certainly seems like a small price to pay to try.

I will keep you posted on the fate of HB298 in the Senate.