BUCKS COUNTY − June 29, 2022 − Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) announced today that he has introduced legislation to support student mental health in our public schools. Senate Bill 1263, the Safety and Violence Education (SAVE) Students Act would require schools to implement at least one hour, or a standard class period, per year of suicide prevention training, violence prevention training, and social inclusion training to students in grades six through twelve.
“As a society, we have an obligation to support our children and keep them safe,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Experts say childhood depression and anxiety were on the rise for years, but the pandemic’s unrelenting stress and grief exacerbated the problems. These early-prevention measures empower everyone to keep our schools and communities safe, and effectively teach youth and adults how to prevent school violence, shootings, and other harmful acts.”
In the training, school personnel will also learn how to identify the signs and signals of depression, suicide and self-injury in students, and when and how to refer youth and their families to appropriate mental health services for assessment within the school entity and the community.
The legislation has support from the Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) in Bucks County, which offers programs like the ones in the legislation to area schools.
“NOVA supports SB 1263,” said NOVA Executive Director Penny Ettinger. “As the comprehensive victim service organization in Bucks County, the core of our mission is violence prevention. For over 30 years, NOVA has provided school-based programs that not only give students and school personnel the tools to recognize signs of a young person suffering but also deliver an age-appropriate interactive learning experience that advances and creates a culture of empathy, kindness, inclusion, and positive relationship building. The demand for these programs and our suicide prevention training has significantly increased over the past year.”
The effort to mandate this training has been advocated for by Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit group based in Newtown, Connecticut, and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Experience tells us that when students are taught how to contribute to the emergence of an inclusive school environment and how to recognize the signs and signals of someone who may be at risk of harming themselves or others, they do the right thing; they speak up. SB 1263 will ensure all students have access to high-quality violence-prevention training and the opportunity to help others by being Upstanders instead of bystanders,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund.