By Ashley Shuler
INDIANAPOLIS – A bill requiring teachers and other staff members who have regular contact with students to be trained in youth suicide and prevention awareness passed committee unanimously Tuesday.
Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Merrilville, who authored House Bill 1430, met with the Department of Education after education committee members voiced their concerns about the frequency of training last week.
Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Merrilville, waits to explain her amendments to House Bill 1430. Olthoff said she decided to author the bill after noticing the number of youth suicides going up each year. Photo by Ashley Shuler, TheStatehouseFile.com
Olthoff changed the bill to require teachers, coaches and counselors to be trained in youth suicide issues for two hours every two years. A previous version required that training every year.
She said the department said two years made the most sense, as tying it to teacher licenses would have some teachers taking the training every three years and others every five.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said he thinks matters like this shouldn’t be decided by the legislature.
“I think the Department of Education should make decisions on teaching or training teachers as needed,” DeLaney said. “But it’s hard to vote against this bill, so I’ll vote for it.”
The bill also gained two co-authors in addition to Rep. David Ober, R-Albion. Representatives Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, and Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, said they were interested in being added to the bill after making some suggestions and comments in favor of the bill last Thursday in committee.
The legislation was inspired by the Jason Flatt Act, which was first passed in 2007 in Tennessee and has been enacted in 19 states. Olthoff’s bill has the same requirements as the Jason Flatt Act, which mandates youth suicide training for a teacher to be licensed in the state.
The bill would allow for online or in-person training, adding another in-service topic to each school’s training discussion. The training extends to school corporations, accredited nonpublic and charter schools that have staff members who interact with students grades 7–12.
Mindi Goodpaster, the public policy director for the Marion County Commission on Youth, spoke in favor of the bill in front of the committee last week. She said these staff members —ones who see these teenagers five days a week — are in a critical place to recognize if their students are struggling.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, explains his vote for the bill. He said that, although he likes the bill’s content, he wishes issues about teacher training were taken care of by the Department of Education, not the legislature. Photo by Ashley Shuler, TheStatehouseFile.com
“We need to make sure the resources are in place so teachers get the full picture,” Goodpaster said last week. “They get it in a way that’s not going to be too time consuming, and then they can provide those supports for the students.”
Indiana ranks first in the nation for the rate of young people who have considered suicide and second in the rate of youth who have attempted to kill themselves, according to a 2015 report from the Indiana Youth Institute.
In 2014, 119 young people ages 15–24 took their lives in Indiana and in 2015, it grew to 129 suicides.
The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.
Ashley Shuler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.