During the 2019 regular legislative session, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 93, which amends Louisiana Revised Statute 17:282.4. This state law outlines requirements for schools providing youth suicide training for teachers and school staff. The new law also amends La. R.S. 17:3396(B) by including La. R.S. 17:282.4 amongst the statues applicable to Louisiana charter schools.
As a requirement under the new law, charter schools must now report participation in such a program to the state Department of Education, which shall designate such a reporting school as a Suicide Prevention Certified school and maintain a list of such schools on its website. Additionally, beginning not later than the 2020-2021 school year, each charter school that issues student identification cards shall print both the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline number and a local prevention hotline number, if available, on the card.
The new law also amends La. R.S. 17:437.1(B), which requires all charter school teachers, counselors, principals, and other school administrators as determined by BESE to participate annually in at least two hours of in-service training in suicide prevention. Such training shall address a number of topics including:
- Increasing self-awareness of risk factors including, but not limited to, mental health and substance abuse, childhood abuse, neglect and trauma, potential causes of stress, secondary trauma from a suicide or sensationalized or graphic accounts of suicide in media, and history of suicide attempts and related family history;
- Teacher responses to suspicious behavior exhibited by students and crisis situations where a student may be an imminent danger to himself;
- Policies for communication with parents and situations where parental notification may not be in the best interest of the student;
- Counseling services available within the school for students and families related to suicide prevention, as well as community organizations and agencies for referral of students to health, mental health, substance abuse, and social support services; and
- Dissemination of information related to suicide and crisis prevention and mental health services available in the community for students, families, and employees.
A number of organizations offer assistance with providing such training to school employees. One such organization we have worked with previously is Family Service of Greater New Orleans (FSGNO). FSGNO provides in-service training around this issue, as well as regarding bullying prevention and intervention, and child abuse prevention and intervention to any school that may need such a service, at no cost to schools. Additionally, FSGNO is a contractor for MHSD to provide Drug and Gambling Prevention, SEL Programming, Life Skills and Child Abuse prevention curricula. Again, this is at no cost to the school.