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A proposal in Ohio would require public middle and high schools to teach an annual class about suicide and violence prevention.
Middle and high-school students in Ohio would be required to take an annual class about suicide and violence prevention under a bill advancing through the state legislature.
The bill, passed last week by the House, mandates a host of measures designed to reduce social isolation and give students and educators the tools to prevent suicide and increase safety in schools. In addition to the class (which must fill either an hour or a class period), the legislation would require public schools to establish both a student-led anti-violence club and a threat-assessment team made up of staff members.
Schools would also have to contract with an outside agency to implement a 24-hour anonymous reporting system to take and vet tips on potential safety threats. As a whole, the legislation aims to make schools safer for all students by making it easier for their peers and their teachers to identify individuals who may be struggling.
“We know that 80 percent of school shooters tell someone of their violent plans prior to the event and 70 percent of people who die by suicide tell someone to give some type of warning or indication of their plans,” Rep. Gayle Manning, a Republican and the bill’s co-sponsor, told lawmakers in March. “The means the majority of acts of violence are preventable if students know the signs and how to ask for help.”
The proposal was introduced before the August mass shooting in Dayton, which has spurred calls for the state to do more to tackle gun violence. On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, offered a revised version of background checks and other proposals he had previously pushed, which he said were meaningful and could get through the legislature. The new measures were criticized by gun control organizations as not strong enough.
If Manning's proposal becomes law, implementation would begin two years later and costs should be negligible for individual school districts, according to the bill’s fiscal analysis. Costs to the state could potentially be offset by federal grants, which the bill encourages the state Department of Education to pursue.
The move would make Ohio the first state in the country to “establish a statewide standard for school and student safety programming,” according to the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization that trains students and adults to know the signs of gun violence.
The proposal comes a decade after the legislature passed a law requiring school districts to have prevention policies in place for dating violence and to include prevention education within the health curriculum.
The bill moves next to the Senate.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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