Suicide prevention training becomes issue in teacher legislation

By Jim Beam

The chief executive officer of Peer Initiative, a teen suicide prevention nonprofit, has expressed opposition to legislation removing suicide prevention training for Louisiana teachers and school employees.

Ken Brown, who is also a public school teacher, said House Bill 320 that is sponsored by Rep. Charles Owen, R-Rosepine, is, in effect, repealing the Jason Flatt Act (JFA).

Brown said Owen is wrong about the act increasing the amount of time teachers have to teach children in the classroom. He said JFA requires two hours of in-service training for teachers. One hour is allowed to be self-study at the teacher’s convenience and the other hour comes at an in-service training day.

“It is not an overstatement to say repealing JFK will cause the unnecessary death of Louisiana children,” Brown said in an email to the American Press. “The law was passed with the support of professionals in the field and evidence-based research,” he said.

Owen’s bill passed the House 94-9 and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Education Committee. It was amended in the House to require that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) consider topics being repealed in Owen’s bill.

Rep. Phillip Tarver, R-Lake Charles, has introduced House Concurrent Resolution 46 that requests BESE to prioritize policies pertaining to suicide prevention and mental health education when it considers topics repealed by Owen’s bill.

The resolution also says BESE shall provide ample opportunity for input from concerned citizens and advocacy groups, including but not limited to Peer Initiative.

Brown said Peer Initiative will also ask the Senate Education Committee to vote against Owen’s bill. He said suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens.

When BESE considers what has been repealed, Brown said there will be a need for as many voices as possible in support of continuing the JFA provisions.

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