Bill requires school districts to hold parent meetings on bullying, suicide, drug abuse

Published: Thursday, March 1 2012 3:45 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Would a school-sponsored parents seminar on mental health or suicide prevention have made a difference at Clearfield High School or any school where tragedy has struck?

"We thought three days ago we didn't need these things," said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, whose daughter was a classmate of two Clearfield High boys who took their lives this week.

A bill before the Utah Legislature would give parents the chance to attend an annual meeting about mental health, bullying, drug abuse, Internet safety, pornography addiction and other issues facing young people. HB420 would require local school districts to hold a seminar on those topics at least once a year. The State Board of Education would provide the curriculum.

"It doesn’t dawn on people to talk about these difficult subjects until after a tragedy has occurred," said Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. "If ever a topic related to health and well being of kids, it's these."

Some House members, though, opposed mandating that school districts hold the meetings.

"At some point our education system and schools have got to take on the responsibility they have as a school," said Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork. "We all recognize these are problems. … They don’t need this legislation to have classes with parents."

Rep. Butterfield, R-Logan, agreed.

"The intentions of this bill are great," he said. "But, good grief, let's resist being the school board for every school district."

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said it isn't different than legislation telling schools how to teach sex education. "We just did that in another bill," she said.

Moss called drug abuse or suicide critical life or death issues. "I think parents are really just asking for information to help them," she said.

Eliason said the bill does not tell school districts what to do.

"This bill is aimed at letting parents talk about these difficult issues," he said.

The House approved the bill 40-30 after lengthy debate. It now moves to the Senate. Legislative fiscal analysts estimate it would cost school districts $200 to $5,000 to assemble materials for the seminars.

Two Clearfield High boys, ages 15 and 16, killed themselves at their homes on Sunday and Wednesday. Eighteen counselors were at the school Wednesday to help students who were grieving.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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