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Teen suicide, bullying notification bill advances to Utah Senate

Published March 1, 2013 2:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Parents might soon be notified if their children are being bullied or threatening suicide if a bill advancing through the Legislature becomes law.

The House passed HB134 by 66-1 on Friday, meaning it will now move to the Senate for consideration. The bill would require schools to notify parents if their kids are involved in bullying or threatening suicide. It would also require schools to keep records of such parent notifications.

The bill follows several high profile cases of Utah kids committing suicide that have inspired a renewed focus on the issue. HB134 is one of nearly half a dozen bills addressing youth bullying and suicide this session.

"I think we have a moral obligation and ethical obligation that these parents need to be notified … If we can save one additional Buddy Peterson suicide we have done a great job for this state," bill sponsor Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said Friday, referring to a 13-year-old Copperton boy who killed himself in January. Peterson's parents tearfully testified in support of the bill at a hearing last week.

Though the bill passed with broad support Friday, Rep. Spencer Cox, R-Fairview, worried some kids would stop talking to school employees about suicidal thoughts if they knew their parents would be alerted. Still, Cox said he supported the idea of parents being notified of bullying and voted in favor of the measure.

The House also on Friday voted 67-2 in favor of HB154, which would require school districts and charter schools to implement suicide prevention programs for junior high and high school students. The $250,000 proposal would also fund a suicide prevention coordinator at the State Office of Education and a state suicide prevention coordinator at the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. HB154 now moves to the Senate.

And the Senate advanced SB184, by a vote of 25-2 on second reading, meaning it must gain approval one more time in the Senate before heading to the House. SB184 is similar to the suicide and bullying notification bill already in the House.