Iowa Senate pushes bill on suicide prevention

DES MOINES – The Iowa Senate unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday that would require all school employees to undergo training to recognize when a student is suffering from trauma or contemplating suicide.

School boards would be required to select a program to train school personnel on symptoms and how to intervene. Educators would undergo such training as part of renewing their teaching licenses.

The measure was prompted by the recent suicides of two teens in Johnston.

Bill sponsor Sen. Janet Peterson, D-Des Moines, rose to tell the Senate she’d met with Johnston Middle School Principal Brian Carico on the one-year anniversary of burying his teenage son Cameron Carico, who was a freshman at Johnston. Cameron took his own life last January. Another Johnston student, Spenser Nelson, did the same a day later.

“As you can imagine, the entire community was devastated,” Petersen said, urging lawmakers to support the legislation.

Democratic Sen. Tod Bowman, an educator from Maquoketa, told senators Wednesday that the suicide of a former student of his 24 years ago still scars his memory.

“I wish he was the one and only one in my teaching career that I have experienced committing suicide,” he said. “Unfortunately, sadly, there’s been way too many.”

Statistics show there are about 30 teenage suicides in Iowa each year.

Bowman said teachers are well-positioned in a child’s life to recognize suicidal behavior. “The goal of this legislation is to adequately inform school personnel of important information in order to prevent teen and pre-teen suicide,” he said. “There are specific steps you can take to identify young people at risk, especially if your school has created a structure that can support your personal efforts to safeguard the health and safety of its students.”