Suicide prevention training advanced

School staff members would receive annual training on suicide awareness and prevention under a bill advanced from select file April 9.

Under LB923, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, all public school nurses, teachers, counselors, school psychologists, school social workers and administrators would receive at least one hour of training each year, beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

The required training would be included under the existing in-service training framework required by the state Department of Education or as part of required professional development activities. The department would be required to collaborate with appropriate organizations and experts to develop a list of approved training materials.

The bill also incorporated provisions of LB872, originally introduced by Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski. It would create the position of state school security director under the department, effective Jan. 1, 2015. The director’s duties would include:
• collecting safety and security plans from each school system;
• recommending minimum standards for school security;
• conducting an assessment of the security of each public school building;
• identifying deficiencies in school security based on the minimum standards adopted by the state;
• establishing security awareness and preparedness tools and training programs for public school staff;
• establishing research-based model instructional programs for staff, students and parents to address causes for violent attacks on schools; and
• overseeing suicide awareness and prevention training.

Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy introduced an amendment that would exempt private, parochial and denominational schools from the state school security director’s authority. Exempted school districts still would be able to consult with the security director on individual matters.

McCoy said including the private, parochial and denominational schools in the original bill could lead to more state intervention in the future.

“It looked like we were giving this new position oversight of security plans for parochial and denominational schools in a way that we don’t want to go down,” he said.

Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek opposed the amendment, saying it does not make sense to protect some students and not others.

“I’m wondering if private school students aren’t in as much jeopardy or aren’t as important as public school students,” he said. “Why would we make the public schools do this and not the private schools? All kids deserve to be protected.”

Senators adopted the McCoy amendment on a 26-7 vote.

Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop introduced an amendment, adopted 38-1, which incorporated provisions of his LB782. The amendment would establish a “return-to-learn” protocol to help ease the transition for students who have suffered a concussion.

A second amendment, adopted 36-0, incorporated provisions of LB741, originally introduced by Gretna Sen. John Murante. It would require that public school districts conduct at least two tornado preparedness drills each school year.

Senators advanced the bill to final reading on a voice vote.

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