PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Task Force on School Safety has proposed suicide prevention legislation — the first of its kind in the country.
The task force met on Tuesday to discuss its proposal — the Oregon Safe to Learn Act, something they’ve been working on for months to make students and staff feel safer at school.
The meeting comes just a day after a 17-year-old student at Jefferson High School in Jefferson died by an apparent suicide.
“The death of a youth impacts so many people, law enforcement included and we have to step back and say ‘How could we have prevented this?'” Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said.
Prevention is key, according to the task force.
Superintendent of the Willamette Education Service District Dr. Dave Novotney said more rural school districts don’t have the staff necessary to handle suicide prevention.
“The proposal that we’re talking about at the task force level would provide that type of structure,” he said. “Actually, people and experts who specialize in youth suicide prevention, bullying and harassment and so on to support schools in these efforts.”
The legislative proposal has unanimous support among educators and law enforcement. Gov. Kate Brown has already included funding for the program in her proposed budget.
The cost of the proposal is less than $4 million for two years.
“We think that is an outstanding investment to help our children, our staff and make our schools safer,” Dr. Novotney said.
If the proposal passes, they’ll implement it at the start of the 2019-20 school year.
“Time is of the essence,” Dr. Novotney told KOIN 6 News. “We need to focus on these important issues right away.”
The task force want students and parents to know there is help for anyone who is having suicidal thoughts.
“We know people cycle through depressive episodes,” Roberts said. “You can get through it and there is hope and calling Safe Oregon can truly make a difference in saving someone’s life.”
Law enforcement said the Safe Oregon tip line has already saved countless students’ lives.