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Senate gives preliminary nod to suicide prevention bill

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20 2014 10:14 p.m. MST

A bill allowing school faculty to ask a student questions or intervene when they believe a student is considering self-harm or suicide was approved on second reading Thursday by the Utah Senate. (Shutterstock) A bill allowing school faculty to ask a student questions or intervene when they believe a student is considering self-harm or suicide was approved on second reading Thursday by the Utah Senate. (Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill making it clear that teachers and school faculty can intervene if they a believe a student is at risk of committing suicide gained preliminary approval Thursday from the Utah Senate.

HB23, sponsored by Rep. Steven Eliason, R-Sandy, amends current law regarding youth suicide prevention to provide clarity for educators.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, the bill's Senate sponsor, said the current law is ambiguous and has led to some educators feeling uncomfortable approaching students exhibiting warning signs of self-harm.

Suicide is a leading cause of death for Utah's teenagers, he said, and the bill empowers school faculty to play a role in preventing harmful actions.

"We want to ensure that our teachers, faculty and staff know that they can have a part in helping prevent suicides in this way," Stephenson said.

The bill was approved by a 23-1 vote and will be read for a third time in the Senate prior to final passage.

— Benjamin Wood

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