Policy 5141.52 - Suicide Prevention
Series: 5000 - Students
Policy: 5141.52 - Suicide Prevention
Last Revised: 06/14/2018 (technical revision)
The Board of Education recognizes that suicide is a major cause of death among youth and that school personnel who regularly interact with students are often in a position to recognize the warning signs of suicide and to offer appropriate referral and/or assistance. In order to attempt to reduce suicidal behavior and its impact on students and families, the Superintendent or designee shall develop measures and strategies for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.
In developing measures and strategies for use by the district, the Superintendent or designee may consult with school health professionals, school counselors, school psychologists, administrators, other staff, parents/guardians, students, local health agencies, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and community organizations.
Such measures and strategies shall include, but are not limited to:
- Staff development on suicide awareness and prevention for teachers, school counselors, and other district employees who interact with students in secondary grades
- Instruction to students in problem-solving and coping skills to promote students’ mental, emotional, and social health and well-being, as well as instruction in recognizing and appropriately responding to warning signs of suicidal intent in others
- Methods for promoting a positive school climate that enhances students’ feelings of connectedness with the school and that is characterized by caring staff and harmonious interrelationships among students
- The provision of information to parents/guardians regarding risk factors and warning signs of suicide, the severity of the youth suicide problem, the district’s suicide prevention curriculum, basic steps for helping suicidal youth, and/or school and community resources that can help youth in crisis
- Encouragement for students to notify appropriate school personnel or other adults when they are experiencing thoughts of suicide or when they suspect or have knowledge of another student’s suicidal intentions
- Crisis intervention procedures for addressing suicide threats or attempts
- Counseling and other postvention strategies for helping students, staff, and others cope in the aftermath of a student’s suicide
As appropriate, these measures and strategies shall specifically address the needs of students who are at high risk of suicide, including, but not limited to, students who are bereaved by suicide; students with disabilities, mental illness, or substance use disorders; students who are experiencing homelessness or who are in out-of-home settings such as foster care; and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth.
Suicide prevention training shall be provided to teachers, counselors, and other district employees who interact with students at the secondary level. The training shall be offered under the direction of a district counselor/psychologist and/or in cooperation with one or more community mental health agencies.
Materials for training shall include how to identify appropriate mental health services at the school site and within the community, and when and how to refer youth and their families to those services. Materials also may include programs that can be completed through self-review of suitable suicide prevention materials.
Staff development shall include research and information related to the following topics:
- The higher the risk of suicide among certain groups, including, but not limited to, students who are bereaved by suicide; students with disabilities, mental illness, or substance use disorders; students who are experiencing homelessness or who are in out-of-home setting such as foster care; and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth
- Individual risk factors such as previous suicide attempt(s) or self-harm, history of depression or mental illness, family history of suicide or violence, feelings of isolation, interpersonal conflicts, a recent severe stressor or loss, family instability, impulsivity, and other factors
- Warning signs that may indicate depression, emotional distress, or suicidal intentions, such as changes in students’ personality or behavior and verbalizations of hopelessness or suicidal intent
- Protective factors that may help to decrease a person’s suicide risk, such as resiliency, problem-solving ability, access to mental health care, and positive connections to family, peers, school, and community
- Instructional strategies for teaching the suicide prevention curriculum and promoting mental and emotional health
- School and community resources and services, including resources and services that meet the specific needs of high-risk groups
- District procedures of intervening when a student attempts, threatens, or discloses the desire to die by suicide
Instruction The district’s comprehensive health education program shall promote the healthy mental, emotional and social development of students and shall be aligned with the state content standards and curriculum framework. Suicide prevention instruction shall be incorporated into the health education curriculum at appropriate secondary grades, the district's suicide prevention instruction shall be designed to help students:
- Identify and analyze signs of depression and self-destructive behaviors and understand how feelings of depression, loss, isolation, inadequacy, and anxiety can lead to thoughts of suicide
- Identify alternatives to suicide and develop coping and resiliency skills
- Learn to listen, be honest, share feelings, and get help when communicating with friends who show signs of suicidal intent
- Identify trusted adults, school resources, and/or community crisis intervention resources where youth can get help and recognize that there is no stigma associated with seeking mental health, substance abuse, and/or suicide prevention services
Students shall be encouraged to notify a teacher, principal, counselor, or adult when they are experiencing thoughts of suicide or when they suspect or have knowledge of another student’s suicidal intentions.
Every statement regarding suicidal intent shall be taken seriously. Whenever a staff member suspects or has knowledge of a student’s suicidal intentions based on the student’s verbalization or act of self-harm, he/she shall promptly notify the principal or school counselor.
Although any personal information that a student discloses to a school counselor shall generally not be revealed, released, referenced, or discussed with third parties, the counselor may report to the principal or student’s parents/guardians when he/she has reasonable cause to believe that disclosure is necessary to avert a clear and present danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the student. In addition, the counselor may disclose information of a personal nature to psychotherapists, or other health care providers, or the school nurse for the sole purpose of referring the student for treatment.
A school employee shall act only within the authorization and scope of his/her credential or license. An employee is not authorized to diagnose or treat mental illness unless he/she is specifically employed to do so.
Whenever schools establish a peer counseling system to provide support for students, peer counselors shall receive training that includes identification of the warning signs of suicidal behavior and referral of a suicidal student to appropriate adults.
When a suicide attempt or threat is reported, the principal or designee shall ensure student safety by taking the following actions:
- Securing immediate medical treatment and/or mental health services as necessary
- Notifying law enforcement and/or other emergency assistance if a suicidal act is being actively threatened
- Keeping the student under continuous adult supervision until the parent/guardian and/or appropriate support agent or agency can be contacted and has the opportunity to intervene
- Removing other students from the immediate area as soon as possible
The principal or designee shall document the incident in writing, including the steps that the school took in response to the suicide attempt or threat.
The Superintendent or designee shall follow up with the parent/guardian and student in a timely manner to provide referrals to appropriate services as needed. If the parent/guardian does not access treatment for the student, the Superintendent or designee may meet with the parent/guardian to identify barriers to treatment and assist the family in providing follow-up care for the student. If follow-up care is still not provided, the Superintendent or designee shall consider whether he/she is required, pursuant to laws for mandated reporters of child neglect, to refer the matter to the local child protective services agency.
For any student returning to school after a mental health crisis, the principal or designee and/or school counselor may meet with the parents/guardians and, if appropriate, with the student to discuss re-entry and appropriate next steps to ensure the student’s readiness for return to school.
In the event that a student dies by suicide, the Superintendent or designees shall communicate with the student’s parents/guardians to offer condolences, assistance, and resources. In accordance with the laws governing confidentiality of student record information, the Superintendent or designee shall consult with the parent/guardians regarding facts that may be divulged to other students, parents/guardians and staff.
The Superintendent or designee shall implement procedures to address students’ and staff’s grief and to minimize the risk of imitative suicide or suicide contagion. He/she shall provide students, parents/guardians, and staff with information, counseling, and/or referrals to community agencies as needed. School staff may receive assistance from school counselors or other mental health professionals in determining how best to discuss the suicide or attempted suicide with students.
Any response to media inquiries shall be handled by the district-designated spokesperson who shall not divulge confidential information. The district’s response shall not sensationalize suicide and shall focus on the district’s postvention plan and available resources.
After any suicide or attempted suicide by a student, the Superintendent or designee shall provide an opportunity for all staff who responded to the incident to debrief, evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies used, and make recommendations for future actions.