PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A group of students from Portsmouth High School visited the State House Wednesday night to show support for a bill aiming to mandate annual suicide prevention training statewide for public school personnel.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer, was taken up in both the House and Senate Education Committees. It is named after Nathan Bruno, a 15-year-old Portsmouth High School student who took his own life last year.
Nathan’s father, Rick Bruno, was one of many who testified in front of the Senate Committee Wednesday night, asking for more suicide prevention training for teachers and staff in schools.
“It’s my belief that my son died in despair and hopelessness over a situation that could have and should have been handled differently by school staff,” Rick Bruno said.
Rick Bruno created a non-profit named “Be Great for Nate” to honor his son’s memory. Several of Nathan’s friends attended the Committee hearings, wearing shirts supporting the organization.
“The students really felt like they needed more resources and more processes to help them through their grief, and there were also questions raised about if more could have been done to prevent the suicide from happening,” Euer said.
The bill was held for further study in both Committees. The National Education Association of Rhode Island said they are concerned about the way the bill is written right now, but they support the idea as a whole.
“We can move forward as a state to make sure that we do every single thing possible on this issue,” Patrick Crowley of the NEA said.
Even though the bill is being held, Euer believes it is most important for lawmakers to get it done right rather than right away.
“I really hope that we can make sure that any of the concerns and issues are ironed out so that we can really make sure that this becomes law to properly honor Nathan Bruno,” she said.
Part of the bill is modeled after a law that passed in 20 states, named after Jason Flatt who also took his own life. It will eventually be called the “Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act.”