By John Celock
Following a legislative amendment last month to add a bill governing seclusion and restraint practices, legislation setting up a suicide prevention program in schools is pending in a Kansas legislative conference committee.
The state House of Representatives voted 124-1 last month to approve legislation governing the suicide prevention program and the new limits on seclusion and restraint for emotionally disruptive students. The bill would require two hours of suicide prevention training annually for school staff. The state Senate sent the bill to a conference committee in order to allow House and Senate education policy leaders to discuss the amended version of the bill.
“Kansas is one of the few states that does not allow any type of suicide awareness in schools,” Rep. Rob Bruchman (R-Leawood), who was carrying the bill, told the House.
House Children and Seniors Committee Chairwoman Connie O’Brien (R-Tonganoxie) put forward the amendment to include legislation regarding technical changes to the state’s seclusion and restraint bill in schools. O’Brien’s committee has been focused on the seclusion and restraint issue since last year. O’Brien’s amendment was included with little discussion.
The move to include amend one bill into another is common in legislative proceedings particularly as the annual legislative session draws to a close. Kansas lawmakers are currently on a several week break before returning to Topeka at the end of April for the annual veto session.
The move to hold a conference committee on the amended bill is common when major amendments are added by one chamber. The suicide prevention bill had previously passed the state Senate.
The suicide prevention bill was praised by lawmakers, saying that it would reduce the amount of teen suicides in the state. Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), who has become a leading GOP advocate on gun control issues, spoke that lawmakers needed to address suicide prevention, including access to guns. Bollier argued that a Harvard University study showed that access to a gun increases suicide rates among youth nationally.
“Asking teachers to identify it and not looking at the availability of guns in our state, which we vote for again and again and again, will not make teachers more aware,” Bollier said. “Remember in the future when people come forward with sensible gun legislation in our state, remember youth suicide.”
Bollier, who has been pushing gun control legislation, did not offer an amendment to the suicide bill addressing gun issues.
Bruchman reminded his colleagues that the bill which would allow for teachers and other school staff to receive training on suicide prevention will help students long term.
“It is not too often that we could save someone’s life,” he said.