BCSD Suicide Prevention Policy
The BCSD Board approved the BCSD Suicide Prevention policy and BCSD Suicide Prevention (TK-6) policy, developed by school and community stakeholders, the county mental health plan, school employed mental health professionals, and suicide prevention experts. In accordance with state laws, the policy addresses procedures related to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. The policies address all grade levels within BCSD and are age appropriate in order that any prevention and support efforts are sensitive to the needs of young students. The policies also addresses the needs of high-risk groups, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
The policy is written to ensure that a school employee acts only within the authorization and scope of the employee's credential or license and to ensure proper coordination and consultation with Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. The full text of both policies are located below.
- Youth bereaved by suicide
- Youth with disabilities, mental illness, or substance use disorders
- Youth experiencing homelessness or in out-of-home settings, such as foster care
- LGBTQIA+ youth
Do you feel anxious, hopeless, desperate, trapped, or have uncontrolled anger? Do you feel withdrawn or that you just can not connect with anyone? Are you experiencing bullying or feel harassed?
Click here to watch a video by our BCSD students to learn how you can get help and support.
Know the Signs
National Suicide Prevention Month 2022
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is important to know the signs, find the words, and reach out if you need help and support.Pain isn't always obvious. Yet most people who are considering suicide show some warning signs or signals of their intentions. The signs or changes in behavior may appear in conversations, through their actions, or in social media posts. These are of most concern if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. Some signs to look for include:
If you have or know anyone with any of these signs you should contact your teacher, principal, or report a concern using the Sprigeo app link. If you feel unsafe or know someone who feels unsafe, please report it using the Sprigeo app link or by contacting your teacher or principal.If any of these signs are present, call the Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Crisis Hotline at 1-800-991-5272 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255:
- Talking about wanting to die or suicide
- Looking for a way to kill themselves
- Feeling hopeless, desperate, trapped
- Giving away possessions
- Reckless behavior
- Putting affairs in order
- Uncontrolled anger
- Increased drug or alcohol use
- Anxiety or agitation
- Changes in sleep
- Sudden mood changes
- No sense of purpose
Learn more about the warning signs at www.SuicideisPreventable.org and download the e-card for quick reference.
- Talking about death or suicide
- Seeking methods for self-harm, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
Take a moment to watch this short clip that can be shared via social media.
Find the Words
Feeling connected to friends, family, and our community can be a protective factor for suicide. Care enough to create a safe space for your students. Parents, use this time to reach out to someone in your life and let them know that you are comfortable talking about anything they need, including suicide, and should they ever come to a point where they are questioning their reasons for living, you will be there to listen and support them. Creating this safe space at a time when there is no crisis is one way we can play a role in suicide prevention.“Are you thinking about suicide?” These words can be difficult to say, but when it comes to suicide prevention, none are more important. Asking someone directly about suicide can be difficult; being direct provides an opportunity for the person to open up and talk about their feelings. Asking directly about suicide will not suggest the idea to them. It is through the act of listening, expressing concern, and providing reassurance that they will feel supported. To learn more about the warning signs for suicide and tips to prepare for a conversation with someone you are concerned about visit the “Find the Words” section of the website: https://www.suicideispreventable.org/
Start the conversation
Listen, express concern, reassure
- Have a list of resources available
- Practice what you will say
- Mention the signs you have noticed
- Ask directly about suicide
- If they answer “yes”, stay calm, do not leave them alone, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
Create a safety plan
- Listen and validate
- Let them know you care
- Ask about access to lethal means and help remove them if safe to do so
- Create a safety plan together
- Ask if they will refrain from using substances or agree to have someone monitor their use
- Get a verbal commitment that they will not act upon thoughts of suicide until they have met with a professional
What NOT to say
- Provide resources
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at 800-273-8255
- If the situation is critical, call 9-1-1, or take the person to the nearest emergency room or walk-in psychiatric clinic
If you think someone is thinking about suicide, listen to your instincts and take it seriously. Do not leave them alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) at any time for assistance.Reach OutIf you or someone you know needs help, please know that you are not alone. Crisis lines, counselors, intervention programs, and more are available to you, whether you are in crisis yourself or concerned about someone else. Here are some numbers to call for supports:
- Do not ask in a way that indicates you want “No” for an answer, such as “You don’t really wanna die do you?”
- Do not tell the person to do it.
- Do not show anger or frustration.
- Do not promise secrecy.
- Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Crisis Line: 1-800-991-5272
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741-741
- The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ Young People): 1-866-488-7386
- Friendship Line (for Older Adults): 1-800-971-0016
- Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
- Teen Line: Call 1-800-852-8336 (from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. PST)
What is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline?
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (1-888-628-9454 for Spanish-speaking callers) is the only federally funded hotline for suicide prevention and intervention. People who are in emotional distress or suicidal crisis can call the Lifeline at any time, from anywhere in the Nation, to talk in English or Spanish with a trained crisis worker who will listen to and assist callers in getting the help they need. For more information about the Lifeline, visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Suicide Prevention Policy TK – 6th Grade
BCSD wants to keep all students safe. We have people who can help if you are not feeling okay. We work together with the county mental health plan so students can get free help if they need it. We also have ways to get help on our web site at BCSD.com. We can help all students, including those who:
- Feel sad or depressed;
- Fell anxious or upset;
- Have lost someone to suicide;
- Are disabled;
- Have mental illness;
- Have substance use disorders;
- Are homeless or in out-of-home settings like foster care; or
- Who are LGBTQ
To keep students healthy and prevent self-harm, BCSD uses Community Building Slides, Toolbox and Second Step to teach students:
- To be mindful of their self and their feelings;
- How to be kind to everyone;
- How to make good decisions;
- What to do if someone being mean or a bully;
- How to ask for help;
- How to get help for others; and
- How to cope with stress and trauma.
If you need help or someone to talk to you can ask a school staff person for help. School staff can only help within the authorization and scope of their credential or license. Only those with the right training and license can diagnose or treat mental illness. Every staff person, however, must be kind and caring.
School Staff are trained by experts to help:
- Look for students who are in crisis or display warning signs;
- Find the right mental health services at school and outside school; and
- Refer students and families to those services.
If School staff hear or see any warning signs, they will ask a School Psychologist to help the student. Any student who is in crisis will not be left alone. The school Psychologist will decide the risk of harm and how best to help the student.
If students try to hurt themselves at school, staff will:
- Remain calm and let the Principal or designee know what is happening;
- Get emergency medical services for the student;
- Be caring and stay with the student until help arrives;
- Offer help to the student and their family; and
- Help the student come back to school when they are ready.
If students try to hurt themselves away from school, staff will:
- Let the Principal or designee know what is happening;
- Offer help to the student and their family; and
- Help the student come back to school when they are ready.
After a student has, or knows someone who has had, a crisis, staff will:
- Share what happened with only those who need to know;
- Make a plan with the family to help the student;
- Help the student make up any missed work;
- Be caring and help the student in school; and
- Follow up with the student and family often to see what help is needed.
If someone dies by suicide staff will:
- Send a team of School Psychologists to the school to help anyone who is in need, and
- Offer help to any families who are in need.
If any student ever needs help, they can:
- Ask any staff person for help;
- Fill out a school request for help form;
- Ask for help at Sprigeo.com;
- Call KBHRS Crisis Hotline at 1-800-991-5272; or
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
The policy was made with input from school and community people, the county mental health plan, school mental health staff, and suicide prevention experts. The policy ensures everyone works together to help our students.
Exhibit Adopted November 16, 2021
Revised October 24, 2023
Book BCSD Board Policies
Section 0600 Students
Title SUICIDE PREVENTION
Adopted April 25, 2017
Last Revised November 16, 2021
The Governing Board recognizes that suicide is a leading cause of death among youth and that school personnel who regularly interact with students are often in a position to recognize the warning signs of suicide and to offer appropriate referral and/or assistance. As such, District staff are ethically responsible for providing an appropriate and timely response in preventing suicidal ideation, attempts, and deaths. This policy is based on research and best practices in suicide prevention, with the understanding that suicide prevention activities decrease suicide risk, increase help-seeking behavior, identify those at risk of suicide, and decrease suicidal behaviors.
To protect the health, safety, and welfare of students, as well as support the staff, families, and community members connected to the District, the Superintendent or designee shall develop measures and strategies for suicide prevention, intervention, postvention, and the identification of mental health challenges, and internalized behaviors, frequently associated with suicidal thinking and behavior. As the creation of relationship centered schools is essential to supporting safety and emotional wellness of students, the Superintendent or designee shall also develop measures and strategies for fostering positive relationships between District staff, students, families, and the community.
In developing measures and strategies for use by the District, the Superintendent or designee shall consult with school health professionals, school psychologists, school social workers, administrators, teachers, other staff, parents/guardians, students, local health agencies, mental health professionals, and community organizations. The policy shall be developed in consultation with school and community stakeholders, the county mental health plan, school-employed mental health professionals, and suicide prevention experts (Education Code Section 215).
The Board shall ensure that measures and strategies address all student grade levels served by the District, are age appropriate, and are delivered, for students in grades Pre-K to 6th grade, in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of young students (Education Code Section 215). Materials and strategies for students in grades 7th and 8th shall be age appropriate.
Such measures and strategies shall include, but are not limited to:
1. Staff development on suicide awareness and prevention for teachers, social workers, counselors, psychologists, other behavioral and mental health related staff, and other District employees who regularly interact with students or are in a position to recognize the risk factors and warning signs of suicide in students, staff, parents, or community members;
2. Age appropriate social-emotional instruction to students in:
A. Problem-solving, mindfulness and coping skills for dealing with stress and trauma, so as to promote students' mental, emotional, and social health and well-being;
B. Recognizing behaviors (warning signs) and life issues (risk factors) associated with suicidal intent and mental health issues in oneself and others;
C. Help-seeking strategies for oneself and others, including how to engage school-based and community resources and refer peers for help;
D. Emphasis on reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and mental health needs so students feel school is a safe space to request mental health support; and
E. Emphasis on the fact that early prevention and intervention can drastically reduce the risk of suicide.
3. Methods for promoting a positive school climate that enhances students' feelings of connectedness with the school and that is characterized by caring staff and harmonious interrelationships among students, staff, parents, and the community;
4. The provision of information to parents/guardians regarding risk factors and warning signs of suicide, the severity of the youth suicide problem, the District's social-emotional learning curriculum, including any specific lessons related to suicide prevention, basic steps for helping suicidal youth, and/or school and community resources that can help youth in crisis;
5. Encouragement, strategies, and prevention education for students to notify appropriate school personnel or other adults when they are experiencing thoughts of suicide or when they suspect or have knowledge of another student's suicidal intentions;
6. Crisis intervention procedures for addressing suicide threats or attempts; and
7. Counseling and other postvention strategies for helping students, staff, and others cope in the aftermath of a student's suicide.
Specific details regarding professional development and training provided to pupils, parents, teachers and other staff members shall be located in the accompanying Administrative Regulations.
As appropriate, these measures and strategies shall specifically address the needs of students who are at high risk of suicide, including, but not limited to, students who are bereaved by suicide; students with disabilities, mental illness, or substance use disorders; students who are experiencing homelessness or who are in out-of-home settings such as foster care; and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning youth, intersex, asexual, or hold a non-cisgender identity not listed above (LGTBQIA+) (Education Code Section 215).
If a referral is made for mental health or related services for a student in grade Pre-K to 8th who is a Medi-Cal beneficiary, the Superintendent or designee shall coordinate and consult with the county mental health plan (Education Code Section 215).
(cf. BP 603.21 – School Health and Social Services)
District and school employees shall act only within the authorization and scope of their credential or license. An employee is not authorized to diagnose or treat mental illness unless the employee is specifically licensed, authorized, and employed to do so (Education Code Section 215).
The Governing Board shall review this policy and the associated administrative regulations at least every five years (Education Code Section 215).
The Superintendent or designee shall post this policy on the District’s web site, in a prominent location in a manner that is easily accessible to parents/guardians and students (Education Code Section 234.6).
Procedures contained herein have been developed by a task force of stakeholders including school and District staff; community agency members from the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Kern Health Systems, United Way of Kern County, The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity; parents; Bakersfield Police Department; suicide prevention experts; internal and external mental health professionals including, but not limited to, staff from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and the District. Task force recommendations were then shared with a student focus group for input. In addition, procedures have been informed by the California Department of Education’s Model Youth Suicide Prevention Policy, California Schools Board Association policy guide, the PREPaRE model for crisis intervention, and professional development from Dr. Stephen Brock of California State University, Sacramento.
The procedures contained herein have been written to ensure proper coordination and consultation with the county mental health plan in the event a referral is made for mental health or related services on behalf of a student who is a Medi-Cal beneficiary (Education Code Section 215).
This policy and the procedures contained within apply to all grades levels operated by the Bakersfield City School District. In addition, Board Policy 603.27 – Suicide Prevention (TK-6) provides age appropriate wording for students in grades 6 and below.
To ensure policy and procedure are properly implemented and updated, the District designates the individual(s) below as the employee(s) responsible for coordination of the District’s professional development and procedures related to suicide prevention education, suicide intervention and postvention, social-emotional learning, and school climate:
Dr. Tim Fulenwider
Executive Director, Instructional Support Services Division
Bakersfield City School District
1300 Baker Street
Bakersfield, California 93305
Telephone: (661) 631-4872
Policy, procedures, and additional information on suicide prevention can be found at www.bcsd.com in the “Parents” and “Quick Links” sections. In addition, students can access the policy, procedures and additional information on the student internet landing page.
Prevention Messaging and Training of Staff
Prevention efforts are based on research and best practices in suicide prevention, and with an understanding that empirical evidence refutes a common belief that talking about suicide can increase risk or ‘place the idea in someone’s mind.’ The resources and strategies below have been identified in consultation with the partners listed above and promote the mental health model of suicide prevention. Prevention efforts recognize that suicide can affect anybody, regardless of whether mental health conditions are present or not. The District will critically review, on an annual basis, along with its partners all materials and resources used in awareness efforts to ensure alignment with best practices and safe messaging about suicide.
Suicide prevention training shall be provided to teachers, social workers, counselors, psychologists, other behavioral and mental health related staff, and other District employees who regularly interact with students or are in a positon to recognize the risk factors and warning signs of suicide in students, staff, parents, or community members (e.g. Cafeteria Playground Activity Leaders (CPALs), bus drivers, FACE Liaisions, nurses, etc.). Materials for training shall include how to identify appropriate mental health services at the school site and within the community, and when and how to refer youth and their families to those services. Materials approved for training may also include programs that can be completed through self-review of suitable suicide prevention materials (Education Code Section 215).
All training methods shall include procedures, resources, and contact information for identifying appropriate mental health services, both at the schoolsite and within the larger community, and when and how to refer youth and their families to those services. The training may be offered using either of the following methods:
- Facilitated video-based training using the CARE Suicide Prevention/Intervention Training video developed in partnership between the District and Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. Only trained individuals may facilitate the video training. The training contains the elements listed in #2 below;
- Direct training by an external, or District employed, mental health professional (e.g. counselor, psychologist, or social worker) who has received advanced training specific to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention and whose training contains at a minimum the following:
- Facts and statistics regarding suicide;
- Common misconceptions about suicide;
- Identification of suicide risk factors and warning signs including research and information related to:
- The higher risk of suicide among certain groups, including, but not limited to, students who are bereaved by suicide; students who have suffered traumatic experiences; students with a history of suicide ideation or attempts; students with disabilities, mental illness, or substance use disorders; students who are experiencing homelessness or who are in out-of-home settings such as foster care; and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, or hold a noncisgender identity not listed above (LGTBQIA+);
- Individual risk factors such as previous suicide attempt(s) or self-harm, history of depression or mental illness, family history of suicide or violence, traumatic grief, feelings of isolation, interpersonal conflicts, a recent severe stressor or loss, family instability, impulsivity, and other factors; and
- Warning signs that may indicate depression, emotional distress, or suicidal intentions, such as changes in students' personality or behavior and verbalizations of hopelessness or suicidal intent.
- How to talk with a student about thoughts of suicide;
- How to respond appropriately to the youth who has suicidal thoughts. Such responses shall include constant supervision of any student judged to be at risk for suicide and an immediate referral for a suicide risk assessment;
- Emphasis on immediately referring (same day), and the District procedures for referral, of any student who is identified to be at risk of suicide for assessment while staying under constant engagement by staff member;
- Emphasis on reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and mental health needs so students, parents, community members, and staff feel school is a safe space to request mental health support;
- Emphasis that early prevention and intervention can drastically reduce the risk of suicide; and
- District procedures for intervening when a student attempts, threatens, or discloses the desire to die by suicide.
3. Direct, video, or on-line training by a certified Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper instructor utilizing the QPR Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention program.
In addition to initial orientations to the core components of suicide prevention, the Superintendent or designee may offer resources and/or ongoing professional development for staff including, but not limited to, the following:
- The impact of traumatic stress on emotional and mental health;
- Signs of self-harm;
- Strategies for applying Trauma Informed Care in the school environment;
- District procedures for responding to suicide risk, prevention, and postvention;
- Community resources for youth suicide prevention;
- District procedures and structures for access, inclusion, and response to student needs through the District’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS);
- Implementation of social-emotional learning in the school environment;
- Mindfulness practices for students and staff;
- Self-care and wellness strategies or staff; and
- Grief and grieving.
Group size should be minimized to the extent practicable when providing training related to suicide prevention. At least one staff member trained in social-emotional support should be present, in addition to the trainer, in order to provide social-emotional support to participants as needed.
Employee Qualifications and Scope of Services
Employees of the Bakersfield City School District and their partners shall act only within the authorization and scope of their credential or license. While it is expected that school professionals are able to identify suicide risk factors and warning signs, and to prevent the immediate risk of a suicidal behavior, treatment of suicidal ideation is typically beyond the scope of services offered in the school setting. In addition, treatment of the mental health challenges often associated with suicidal thinking typically requires mental health resources beyond what schools are able to provide (Education Code Section 215).
Specialized Staff Training on Assessment, Crisis Intervention, and Postvention
Professional development in suicide risk assessment, crisis intervention, and postvention, to include supporting students and staff that experience grief and loss as a result of a suicide or suicide attempt, shall be provided to District mental health professionals designated to conduct suicide risk assessment and crisis intervention (e.g. psychologists). Professional development with be coordinated by the Assistant Director, Special Education and occur within two months of hiring for new employees, or whenever District protocols for assessment, crisis intervention, or postvention are changed. Specialized staff will be provided protocols for review annually.
Student Instruction in Social-Emotional Learning to Support Suicide Prevention
The District's social-emotional learning program shall promote the healthy mental, emotional, and social development of students and shall be aligned with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning standards and related California content standards and curriculum frameworks. Social-emotional learning instruction shall be incorporated into the instructional program at all grades, utilizing Community Building Slides, Toolbox and Second Step, and shall be designed to help students:
- Develop self-awareness skills which support the recognition of behaviors (warning signs) and life issues (risk factors) associated with suicide and mental health issues in oneself and others;
- Develop self-management skills which support coping and resiliency strategies, to include mindfulness, for dealing with stress and trauma;
- Develop social awareness and relationships skills which support student’s ability to learn to listen, be honest, share feelings, and get help when communicating with friends who show signs of suicidal intent; and
- Develop responsible decision-making skills which support the identification of trusted adults, school resources, and/or community crisis intervention resources where youth can get help and recognize that there is no stigma associated with seeking services for mental health, substance abuse, and/or suicide prevention.
(cf. BP 400.56 – Comprehensive Health Education)
(cf. BP 603.10 – Alcohol and Other Drugs)
(cf. BP 603.16 – Multi-Tiered System of Support)
(cf. BP 603.18 – Guidance/Counseling Services)
(cf. BP 603.21 – Student Health and Social Services)
Bi-annually, the District will coordinate activities and lessons for school sites during Suicide Prevention and Awareness (September) and Mental Health Awareness (May) months to support positive mental health and suicide prevention. Information on how students can access available mental health services on campus, and in the community, will be included.
All activities and instructional lessons shall be age appropriate and shall be delivered and discussed in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of young students (Education Code Section 215). Age appropriate visuals describing how to access resources may be displayed in high traffic areas at the discretion of the principal or designee. District and school web sites and social media accounts may be used to provide information and resources at any time during the school year.
(cf. BP 300.68 – Social Media)
(cf. BP 500.50 – District and School Web Sites)
The Superintendent or designee shall annually review the effectiveness of the District’s social-emotional program, including suicide prevention instruction, and make modifications as needed. The Superintendent or designee may consult with school and District staff, community stakeholders, and mental health experts as needed.
All schools shall display the District approved age appropriate “Student Mental Health Support” poster that identifies approaches and shares resources regarding student mental health. The poster shall be prominently and conspicuously displayed in appropriate public areas that are accessible to, and commonly frequented by, students at each schoolsite. The poster shall be displayed in English and any primary language spoken by fifteen (15) percent or more of the students enrolled at the schoolsite as determined pursuant to Education Code Section 48985. The poster shall be no smaller than 8.5 by 11 inches and use at least twelve-point font. The poster shall display, at a minimum, all of the following (Education Code Section 49428.5):
- Identification of common behaviors of those struggling with mental health or who are in a mental health crisis, including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, emotional dysregulation, bipolar episodes, and schizophrenic episodes.
- A list of, and contact information for, schoolsite-specific resources, including, but not limited to, counselors, wellness centers, and peer counselors.
- A list of, and contact information for, community resources, including, but not limited to, suicide prevention, substance abuse, child crisis, nonpolice mental health hotlines, public behavioral health services, and community mental health centers.
- A list of positive coping strategies to use when dealing with mental health, including, but not limited to, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, breathing exercises, grounding skills, journaling, acceptance, and seeking therapy.
- A list of negative coping strategies to avoid, including, but not limited to, substance abuse or self-medication, violence and abuse, self-harm, compulsivity, dissociation, catastrophizing, and isolating.
The poster shall be digitized and distributed online to students through social media, internet websites, portals, and learning platforms at the beginning of each school year (Education Code Section 49428.5).
Student Identification Cards
Student identification cards shall include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline telephone number (1-800-273-8255) and may also include the Crisis Text Line, which can be accessed by texting HOME to 741741, and/or a local suicide prevention hotline telephone number (Education Code Section 215.5). Student identification cards shall also contain the telephone number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) (Education Code Section 215.5).
Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers Participation, Education, Training, and Referral
To the extent possible, parents/guardians/caregivers should be included in all suicide prevention efforts. The suicide prevention policy shall be made available on the District’s and school’s web page. Information regarding the District’s suicide prevention policy and procedures, as well as crisis prevention and intervention, will be included in the District’s Guide for Parents and Students.
District and/or school staff will provide annual training opportunities related to suicide prevention to parents/guardians/caregivers that address the following:
- Suicide risk factors, warning signs, self-harm signs, and protective factors;
- Grief and grieving;
- How to talk with a student about thoughts of suicide;
- How to respond appropriately to the student who has suicidal thoughts. Such responses shall include constant supervision of any student judged to be at risk for suicide and referral for an immediate suicide risk assessment; and
- School, District, and community resources for referral and assistance to include an online referral process.
Education and training materials shall be available in Spanish. When fifteen (15) percent or more of the students enrolled in a school speak a single primary language other than English, materials will be provided in the identified non-English language.
The District may utilize social media or other electronic formats to provide information and education to parents, guardians, and caregivers.
Referral by Students
Students shall be encouraged to notify a District staff member or other adult when they are experiencing emotional distress or thoughts of suicide, or when they suspect or have knowledge of another student's emotional distress, suicidal ideations, or attempt.
The District will provide a universal system for reporting bullying, safety concerns, and support needs by students. Information on accessing suicide and crisis prevention hotlines, as well as the school and District systems for reporting bullying, safety concerns, and support needs, will be posted at all school sites in locations frequented by students. In addition, each school shall develop an age appropriate system for students to refer themselves or other students needing support related to stress, depression, suicidal ideation, or other emotional distress. Each school’s system shall be reviewed by the Superintendent or designee to ensure that the system provides appropriate access for students and minimizes any stigma related to referrals for mental health support.
After initial support response, students who access the District or school site system seeking support shall be referred to the school’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) team for follow up and to determine the level of on-going supports needed by the student.
Intervention, Assessment, and Referral
Employees of the District shall act only within the authorization and scope of their credential or license. While it is expected that school professionals are able to identify suicide risk factors and warning signs, and to prevent the immediate risk of a suicidal behavior, treatment of suicidal ideation is typically beyond the scope of services offered in the general school setting. An employee is not authorized to diagnose or treat mental illness unless the employee is specifically licensed and employed to do so (Education Code Section 215).
Staff members who suspect a student may be in crisis or is displaying warning signs of emotional stress, depression, or suicidal ideation should approach the student using one of the following strategies based on their training:
A. CARE strategy:
- Connect – Strike up a conversation with the student to show you connect and care for them.
- Ask about suicide – Directly ask if the student is thinking about suicide. Verbalize empathy for the pain the student is expressing and use supportive language without telling them how they feel or should feel.
- Request support - Do not leave the student alone and notify the primary suicide prevention designee who will either have you deliver the student safely to a private location for risk assessment or will send someone to escort the student safely.
- Engage in conversations about supports – Discuss with students coping skills, social-emotional skills covered at school, and/or specific interests, activities, or talents the student enjoys.
B. QPR strategy:
- Question – Question the person about suicide to determine if they have suicidal thoughts, feelings, or plans.
- Persuade – Persuade the person to get help by offering to help or come with you to get help.
- Refer – Refer for help by reaching out to the appropriate support resource.
C. Or other research based method the staff member has received training on.
The school principal and their designee shall serve as the primary and secondary suicide prevention designee. Procedures for Intervention, Assessment, and Referral shall be as follows:
1. General Staff Procedures for Responding to a Suicide Threat:
- Every statement regarding suicidal intent shall be taken seriously. Do not agree to keep a student’s suicidal intentions a secret. Whenever a staff member suspects or has knowledge of a student’s suicidal intentions based on the student’s verbalizations or act of self-harm, they shall promptly notify the school principal or designee, either directly or through the school secretary or clerk.
- Under normal circumstances, the primary and/or secondary contact persons shall immediately notify the school psychologist to conduct a risk assessment. If the school psychologist is unavailable, the primary and/or secondary contact persons shall immediately contact the Assistant Director, Special Education to deploy a crisis response team member to conduct a risk assessment. If a student is in imminent danger a call should be made to 911 to enact emergency medical services.
- No student expressing suicidal intent shall be left alone, even if they request to go use the restroom. A staff member must carefully observe and engage with the student until a qualified crisis response team member can conduct a risk assessment. If the student can be moved, a designated staff member should safely take them to a private location designated by the principal or designee for risk assessment. If the student cannot be moved then other students should be removed from the immediate area.
- A student in crisis should not be allowed to leave the school. If a student in crisis attempts to leave, staff should ask them to stay and immediately make the principal or designee aware that the student is attempting to leave. If the student leaves campus the principal or designee should immediately contact law enforcement.
- If the student has the means to carry out the threatened suicide on his or her person, determine if they will voluntarily relinquish it. Do not force the student to do so. Do not place yourself in danger. Inform the principal or designee immediately.
- Once arrived, the school psychologist or other District crisis response team member shall conduct a suicide risk assessment in accordance with the District’s “Crisis Intervention Event Protocol”.
- Based on the risk assessment the school psychologist or other District crises response team member shall make one of the following determinations:
- Extreme Risk – If the student has the means at hand and refuses to relinquish it, contact 911. Continue attempts to calm the student until police arrive. Continue to request the student relinquish the means of threatened suicide and try to prevent the student from harming themselves. Contact parents/guardians/caregivers as appropriate. Principal or designee to notify the school’s Executive Director, Assistant Director of Special Education and Executive Director of Instructional Support Services who in turn will notify the Superintendent or designee and other appropriate District staff as needed to coordinate support for the student and family utilizing the District’s Service Delivery Model and Multi-tiered System of Support. Develop a safety plan and referral to the appropriate mental health services.
- Moderate to High Risk - Contact law enforcement to determine if the Kern County Mobile Evaluation Team (MET) will be sent out for further assistance. If the MET is sent out they will either take the student for observation or assist in collaboratively developing a safety plan and referral options for the student. If law enforcement does not recommend the MET team be sent out, school staff should follow any law enforcement recommendations. Develop a safety plan and referral to the appropriate mental health services. Contact parents/guardians/caregivers as appropriate. Principal or designee to notify the school’s Executive Director, Assistant Director of Special Education and Executive Director of Instructional Support Services who in turn will notify the Superintendent or designee and other appropriate District staff as needed to coordinate support for the student and family utilizing the District’s Service Delivery Model and Multi-tiered System of Support.
- Low Risk – Develop a safety plan and referral to the appropriate mental health services. Contact parents/guardians/caregivers as appropriate. Principal or designee contact appropriate District staff as needed to coordinate support for the student and family. Provide courtesy notification to the Executive Director of Instructional Support Services. Student should be referred to the school Multi-tiered System of Support team for support.
2. General Staff Procedures for Responding to a Suicide Attempt:
- Remain calm, remembering that the student is overwhelmed, confused, and emotionally distressed;
- Move all other students out of the immediate area;
- Immediately notify the principal or designee and inform them of the attempt with as much information as possible;
- Principal or designee should activate emergency medical services and give them as much information about any suicide note, medications taken, and access to weapons, if applicable;
- Principal to notify the school’s Executive Director, Assistant Director of Special Education and Executive Director of Instructional Support Services who in turn will notify the appropriate District staff to coordinate support for the student and family utilizing the District’s Service Delivery Model and Multi-tiered System of Support;
- If needed, provide medical first aid until a medical professional is available;
- Keep the student under continuous adult supervision until the appropriate support agent or agency has the opportunity to intervene; Do not send the student away or leave them alone, even if they need to, or request to, use the restroom; ne;
- Show care and compassion for the student by listening, prompting the student to talk, reviewing options and resources of people who can help, and providing comfort; and
- Student should only be released to emergency medical services or, at the direction of emergency medical services, to the parents/guardians/caregivers.
(cf. BP 300.36 – Crisis Prevention and Intervention)
(cf. BP 300.44 – School Safety Plan)
(cf. BP 603.22 – Health Care and Emergencies)
3. General Staff Procedures for Responding to an Out-of-School Suicide Attempt:
- Immediately notify the principal or designee and inform them of the attempt with as much information as possible;
- Principal or designee to notify the school’s Executive Director Assistant Director of Special Education and Executive Director of Instructional Support Services who in turn will notify the Superintendent or designee and other appropriate District staff as needed to coordinate support for the student and family utilizing the District’s Service Delivery Model and Multi-tiered System of Support;
- Principal or designee to discuss with the family how they would like the school to respond to the attempt while minimizing widespread rumors among teachers, staff, and students;
- Obtain permission from the parents/guardians/caregivers to share information to ensure the facts regarding the crisis are correct;
- All media requests are to be handled by the Public Information Officer;
- Provide care and determine appropriate support to affected students;
- Offer to the student and parents/guardians/caregivers steps for re-integration to school.
The principal or designee shall document the incident in writing, including the steps that the school took in response to the suicide attempt or threat.
(cf. BP 605.07 – Student Records)
Parental Notification and Follow-Up
Although any personal information that a student discloses to a District mental health professional shall generally not be revealed, released, referenced, or discussed with third parties, the mental health professional may report to the principal or student's parents/guardians/caregivers when they have a reasonable cause to believe that disclosure is necessary to avert a clear and present danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the student or in the best interest of the student when developing a safety plan and referral for the student to mental health services.
Determination of notification to parents/guardians/caregivers should follow a formal initial assessment to ensure that the student is not endangered by parental notification. In addition, the mental health professional may disclose information of a personal nature to psychotherapists, other health care providers, or the school nurse for the sole purpose of referring the student for treatment (Education Code Section 49602).
(cf. BP 603.22 – Health Care and Emergencies)
The Principal or designee shall follow up with the parent/guardian and student in a timely manner to provide referrals to appropriate services as needed. If the parents/guardians/caregivers refuse or neglect to access treatment for a student who has been identified to be at-risk for suicide or in emotional distress, the principal or designee (or other appropriate school staff member) will meet with the parents/guardians/caregivers to identify barriers to treatment (e.g. cultural stigma, financial issues) and work to rectify the situation and build understanding of the importance of care. If follow-up care for the student continues to not be provided, school staff shall consider whether they are required, pursuant to laws for mandated reporters of child neglect, to refer the matter to Child Protective Services.
(cf. BP 603.07 – Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and Reporting)
Supporting Students after a Mental Health Crisis
It is critical to provide support for students who have experienced, or been affected by, a mental health crisis. The school principal or designee shall work with the school psychologist or other District mental health staff to develop a plan of support and safety for the student and to monitor the student’s actions for any signs of suicidal behavior. The following steps should be implemented:
- The principal or designee, and other staff as determined by the principal or designee, may, as appropriate, meet with the parents/guardians/caregivers, any outside mental health providers, and, if appropriate, with the student to discuss re-entry and next steps to ensure the student’s readiness for return to school;
- Obtain a written release of information signed by parents/guardians/caregivers for any outside mental health providers;
- Remind staff, as appropriate, to support the student using the suicide prevention strategy they have been trained in;
- Treat every threat with seriousness and approach with a calm manner using the above protocols for staff responding to suicide threats;
- Communicate appropriate safety plans to staff for implementation to support the student; and
- Communicate to staff any plans for addressing other students who may be impacted or experience trauma as a result of mental health crisis.
In the event a student with an active plan of support withdraws from their current school, staff will forward, to the extent possible, information to appropriate staff at the student’s new school or district as soon as possible.
Re-Entry to School after a Suicide Attempt
A student who threatened or attempted suicide is at higher risk for suicide in the months following the crisis. The principal or designee shall implement the following re-entry process to ensure the safety and well-being of the student:
- The principal or designee, and other staff as determined by the principal or designee, should meet with the parents/guardians/caregivers, any Service Delivery Model personnel assigned to support, any outside mental health providers, and, if appropriate, with the student to discuss re-entry and next steps to ensure the student’s readiness for return to school;
- Re-entry plans should include mental health provider contact and case management, as appropriate;
- Obtain a written release of information signed by parents/guardians/caregivers and any outside mental health providers;
- Inform the student’s teachers about possible days of absences;
- Allow accommodations for the student to make up work (be understanding that missed assignments may add stress to the student);
- Mental health professionals or staff members trusted by the student should maintain ongoing contact to monitor the student’s actions and mood;
- Work with the parents/guardians/caregivers to ensure the student is receiving mental health treatment and has a plan of safety for outside of school;
- Work with the student to identify a staff member, preferred by the student, for the purposes of checking-in with and supporting the student. If the student chooses, the preferred staff member may be present during the relay of information from appropriate staff or mental health professionals;
- School Psychologist and School Principal or designee will collaborate to convene MTSS team meeting, as soon as possible, to ensure all relevant staff and personnel know and understand the re-entry plan; and
- Evaluate the student for a Section 504 plan or revise, as appropriate, any existing Section 504 plan.
In the event that a student dies by suicide, the Superintendent or designee shall communicate with the student's parents/guardians/caregivers to offer condolences, assistance, and resources. In accordance with the laws governing confidentiality of student record information, the Superintendent or designee shall consult with the parents/guardians/caregivers regarding facts that may be divulged to other students, parents/guardians/caregivers, and staff.
The Superintendent or designee shall implement procedures to address students' and staff's grief and to minimize the risk of imitative suicide or suicide contagion. The Superintendent or designee shall provide students, parents/guardians/caregivers, and staff with information, counseling, mental health support and/or referrals to community agencies as needed. School staff may receive assistance from District mental health professionals in determining how best to discuss the suicide or attempted suicide with students.
The Superintendent or designee shall deploy a Suicide Death Response Team (SDRT) to support anyone within the school community impacted by the suicide. The SDRT will hold an initial meeting to develop a plan and hold subsequent meetings to modify as needed:
- Identification of a staff member to confirm death and cause (school site administrator);
- Identification of a staff member to contact the deceased’s family (within 24 hours);
- Coordination of an all-school staff meeting, to include:
- Notification to staff about the suicide death;
- Emotional support and resources available to staff;
- Notification to students about suicide death and the availability of support services;
- Share information that is relevant and that is permitted to disclose.
4. Preparation of staff to respond to the needs of students regarding the following:
- Review of protocols for referring students for support/assessment;
- Talking points for staff to notify student;
- Resources available to students (on and off campus).
5. Identification of students and staff significantly affected by suicide death and other students at risk of imitative behavior. Identified students and staff shall be immediately referred for mental health services;
6. Identification of students and staff affected by suicide death but not at risk for imitative behavior; If there is an identified higher need of support for a student or staff member that was affected by the death by suicide of another student, a referral will be made to a mental health provider/service;
7. Communication with the larger school community about the suicide death;
8. Consideration of funeral arrangements for family and school community;
9. Responses to memorial requests in respectful and non-harmful manner; and
10. Social Media monitoring and response plan.
Any response to media inquiries shall be handled by the Public Information Officer who shall not divulge confidential information. The District's response shall not sensationalize suicide and shall focus on the District's postvention plan and available resources.
(cf. BP 300.01 – Media Relations)
After any suicide or attempted suicide by a student, staff, or other member of the school community, the Superintendent or designee shall provide an opportunity for all staff who responded to the incident to debrief, evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies used, and make recommendations for future actions.
The following memorials may be considered:
- A living memorial such as a student assistance program, that will help others cope with feelings and problems;
- A donation or collection drive to support local suicide prevention programs and/or help families with funeral arrangements.
The following memorials are prohibited:
- Permanent plaques or monuments on school grounds;
- Yearbook dedications in memory of the person who has died by suicide;
- Dedication of songs or sporting events to the person who has died by suicide;
- Flying the flag at half-staff;
- Assemblies focusing on the person who has died by suicide; and
- Moments of silence in all-school assemblies.
American Association of Suicidology: http://www.suicidology.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: http://afsp.org
American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org
American School Counselor Association: http://www.schoolcounselor.org
California Department of Education, Mental Health: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mh
California Department of Health Care Services, Suicide Prevention Program: http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/MH/Pages/SuicidePrevention.aspx
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mental Health: http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth
HEARD Alliance: http://www.heardalliance.org/
National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: http://suicidepreventionmessaging.actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/
National Association of School Psychologists: http://www.nasponline.org
National Institute for Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE): https://www.save.org/product/parents-as-partners/
Suicide Prevention Resource Center: http://www.sprc.org/about-suicide
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Trevor Project: http://thetrevorproject.org
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: http://www.samhsa.gov
Policy Adopted April 25, 2017
Revision Approved October 24, 2017
Revision Approved October 22, 2019
Revision Approved November 16, 2021
Revision Approved October 24, 2023
Staff Training Video