PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new bill is being introduced at the State House that would require all public school personnel to be trained annually in suicide awareness and prevention.
The bill is named the “Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act,” in remembrance of Bruno, a 15-year-old Portsmouth High School student who took his own life in 2018.
The idea to create the bill came from Bruno’s friends, who created a non-profit named “Be Great for Nate.”
Rick Bruno, Nathan’s father, and Steven Peterson created the legislation in honor of Nate’s memory.
“To have Nathan’s name on it… it’s a powerful testimony to his story,” Rick Bruno said.
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Under the bill, every public school district would be required to create a suicide prevention policy and all employees would need to be trained on the mater. A set of guidelines would be put in place by the Department of Education.
“All teens are vulnerable to these emotional heart attacks,” Rick Bruno added. “If it helps save one other child’s life it will be worth it.”
The bill has the support of Rep. Terri Cortvriend, Sen. James Sweveney and Sen. Dawn Euer.
“Kids need support from the adults in their lives, and this bill strives to ensure the adults they see every day at school are ready to connect them to help when they need it,” Cortvriend 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.
“We’ve really felt there’s been a deficiency for school staff to recognize the signs that a student is at risk,” Peterson said. “They’re going to give their signs to the person they’re closest with no matter who it is. Whether it’s a friend, a teacher, a coach, a custodian, a lunch worker… that’s who they’re going to talk to, so we need to make sure they’re prepared for that conversation.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 34 in 2016. In 2017, one in nine middle schoolers in Rhode Island made a suicide plan.
Hearings in both the House and Senate Committees on Education will take place Wednesday around 5 p.m.