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Bills aimed at strengthening bullying laws, preventing suicide introduced

Posted at 5:47 AM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 11:10:16-04

LANSING, Mich. — “Suicide is a growing epidemic and our community has deeply felt its impact."

Michigan Senator Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, has introduced legislation aimed at preventing adolescent suicide and improving bullying laws.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24. According to a 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than 1 in 6 high school students in the U.S. reported having seriously considered attempting suicide in the 12 months preceding the survey, and 8% of students (about 1 in 12) reported having attempted suicide in the preceding 12 months.

Senate Bill 532 would require school personnel to be trained in identifying the warning signs and risk factors of suicide and depression, and the protective factors that prevent suicide.

It would also require that students receive age appropriate instruction to increase awareness of warning signs and risk factors for suicide and depression.

Senate Bill 531 would update and strengthen existing anti-bullying laws through a number of changes.

Those changes include outlining policies for prompt parental notice and investigations, requiring schools to use Michigan’s bullying reporting app OK2SAY, clarifying cyberbullying definitions, and updating schools’ required reported data on bullying.

The legislation was inspired by Kevin and Tammy Epling of East Lansing, who lost their son, Matt, to suicide in 2002 after a bullying incident.

Eric Thompson and Patty Morley of Haslett lost their son, Evan, to suicide in 2016.

"Many young people are suffering in silence every day,” said Sen. Hertel. “We need to equip school personnel and their peers with the tools and resources to identify when someone is struggling and get them the help they need.”

"These bills are simple measures for schools that can save countless lives."

The legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness.

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