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Phoenix-area teacher has hopes for suicide prevention training law

(AP File Photo)

PHOENIX – Training teachers and faculty in Arizona schools to recognize suicidal warning signs in students is extra work that is welcome, said a Tempe teacher and public education advocate.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1468 this week, requiring faculties who work with students in grades 6-12, to complete suicide prevention training starting in 2020-2021 school year.

“I am very supportive of this bill,” Tempe grade school teacher Beth Lewis of nonpartisan, grassroots Save Our Schools told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Chad Benson Show on Thursday.

“I do think it’s going to have a very positive effect on our kids for the long haul.”

Lewis, who helped direct the state’s Red for Ed movement last year that eventually led to raises for teachers, said that while teachers wear many hats already, “We truly will do anything it takes to make sure that our kids are happy and healthy.”

Teen suicides are rising in Arizona and around the country. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention listed suicide as the leading cause of death among Arizona’s 10-to-14-year-olds in 2017.

“It’s a problem,” Lewis said and the training is smart because it will identify warning signs.

“Us parents, us teachers, we think we know, but then sometimes we find out too late, we had no idea” of a child’s internal struggles.

A report said Arizona had the worst student-to-counselor ratio in the country at 905 to 1.

Lewis said her school shared a counselor with another elementary school.

“She has about 1,000 kids on her plate. It is unsustainable. It’s not OK for kids.

“We’re doing everything we can, but we have kids in foster care, we have kids who have had severe family violence, kids who simply don’t even eat enough or get what they need at home and they need to be counseled every single morning,” Lewis said.

The governor’s budget included $12 million for his Safe Arizona Schools Plan.

“It’s a start,” Lewis said.

“But we need more from our government, we need more from our Legislature. Unfortunately, even seeing these budget conversations is not enough at all,” she said.

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