Preventing "Silent Epidemic" Requires Training And Diligence
By Rep. Marlene Anielski (R-Independence)

Although students might not be eager to admit it, the beginning of a new school year is an exciting time. Kids have another opportunity to continue their education, be around their friends on a regular basis and participate in extracurricular activities like sports and music.

Last year, I had the privilege of giving the commencement speech at my alma mater, Cleveland Central Catholic and this month at Stautzenberger College. I talked about how the experiences those graduates had enjoyed during their time in school will prepare them for the opportunities and challenges that they will face throughout their lives. I also emphasized that a person’s education is not limited to the days spent in school, but rather it is an ongoing, never-ending process.

As young adults, it can be difficult to have a clear perspective or appreciation for education. Most of the focus is simply preparing for the next test, earning good grades and, ultimately, graduating and finding a career. However, as people get older, they usually can look back at a teacher or subject as having a positive influence on their lives. I know this has been true for me.

As a legislator, I am committed to doing what I think is best for the school districts and students, as well as making it easier for them to pursue their future interests. One issue that I have been actively engaged with over the past few years has been a devastating reality for far too many families.

In 2011, the Center for Disease Control released a study that said one in seven Ohio students reported they had “seriously considered suicide” in the past 12 months. Slightly more than that said they actually “made a plan to commit suicide.”

In response to this tragic epidemic, I introduced a bill titled the “Jason Flatt Act,” which requires public and charter schools to use these FREE materials or similar programs to train teachers and staff in the areas of suicide awareness and prevention. School boards across Ohio could adopt the curriculum developed by the Ohio Department of Education, or, if the school already has prevention standards, they could simply adapt certain policies to the curriculum. Governor Kasich signed the bill into law, and it took effect in March.

The thousands of teachers, staff and faculty members that work in Ohio’s schools all want, what is best for their students. Anything we can do to help students who are facing difficult challenges in their young lives is a worthy effort. With proper training and diligence, I am confident that the number of at risk teens in Ohio can decrease dramatically.

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