Government & Politics

Parents call for suicide prevention training in Kansas schools

Parents spoke to members of the Senate Education Committee to voice support for the Jason Flatt Act, which would require all educators to complete two hours of youth suicide awareness and prevention training every year.
Parents spoke to members of the Senate Education Committee to voice support for the Jason Flatt Act, which would require all educators to complete two hours of youth suicide awareness and prevention training every year. The Wichita Eagle

One thing seems likely Tuesday after a dozen tearful parents told heartbreaking stories to Kansas lawmakers about their children’s suicides: Suicide prevention training is coming to Kansas schools.

Parents spoke to members of the Senate Education Committee to voice support for the Jason Flatt Act, which would require all educators to complete two hours of youth suicide awareness and prevention training every year.

The act is a national effort, and 16 states have passed it.

Betty Brennan of Hiawatha, Kan., told of the day in 2014 when her son Kyler took his own life.

“As I stood in my 15-year-old son’s room, 40 minutes after telling him I loved him and to have a good day at school, looking at his lifeless body, I made a vow to break the silence,” Brennan said.

She said Kyler was a sports-loving guy who was a good student and friend. More tools are required to help schools and the community detect when a child is in need, she said.

“He didn’t show signs, but is there something his teachers could have seen that I couldn’t?” she said.

Others who spoke included Cathy Housh, whose daughter Cady, a student at Olathe Northwest High School, died by suicide in 2014, and Allison Doss, whose daughter Sara, a Shawnee Mission South student, took her own life last July.

“It will save lives,” Housh said of the training proposal. “I think it’s an amazing start for our state.”

Scott Gordon, general counsel with the Kansas State Department of Education, told the committee that an even broader program of suicide recognition and prevention training is in the works and that it would be required as part of school district accreditation.

“We’re getting it done,” Gordon said.

Some committee members suggested the two efforts could be combined. Sen. Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican and Education Committee chairman, offered condolences to the parents who came to the hearing. He said the committee would consider the programs in the coming weeks.

Edward M. Eveld: 816-234-4442, @EEveld

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