Williamsville Central School District

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Adoption Date: 9/9/2014
7000 - Students

7557 - SUICIDE

It is the policy of the Board of Education to enact clear guidelines for the prevention, intervention and postvention of suicide, reflecting the district’s concern for this serious mental health issue.

The Board recognizes the need for suicide prevention.  The District shall establish a suicide assessment protocol and postvention plan. The suicide assessment protocol shall include information addressing risk factors, warning signs and protective factors, as well as procedures for screening and intervening, including referral sources.  The postvention plan shall be integrated into the existing District crisis response plan and will assist the school community to cope with the tragic loss of a student or staff member by suicide.

District and Building administration is responsible for informing staff of regulations and procedures addressing suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.  The District will respond to known situations in which a student indicates intent to attempt suicide or to do physical harm to himself/herself. Training and professional development on suicide and crisis intervention will be provided to staff.

Suicide is rare among elementary school youth. Therefore the language and concepts covered by the developed protocol are generally most applicable to middle and high schools.

The purpose of this policy is to protect the health and well-being of students by having procedures in place to prevent, assess the risk of, intervene in, and respond to suicide.  The District:

  1. recognizes that physical, behavioral, and emotional health is an integral component of a student’s educational  outcomes,
  2. recognizes that suicide is a leading cause of death among young people,
  3. has an ethical responsibility to take a proactive approach in preventing deaths by suicide,
  4. acknowledges the school’s role in providing an environment which is sensitive to individual and societal factors that place youth at a greater risk for suicide and one which helps foster positive youth development.
The Assistant Superintendent for Exceptional Education & Student Services shall be appointed by the Superintendent of Schools to serve as District Coordinator and will be responsible for developing programs, protocols and procedures for the District.

Each Principal shall designate members of the mental health staff to act as points of contact in each school for issues relating to suicide prevention and policy implementation.  All staff members shall report students they believe to be at elevated risk for suicide to one of these individuals.

Staff shall receive professional development on risk factors, warning signs, protective factors, referral and response procedures, postvention, and resources regarding youth suicide prevention.

Additional professional development in risk assessment and crisis intervention will be provided to District mental health staff and school nurses.

Developmentally-appropriate, student-centered educational materials will be integrated into the curriculum to educate students.  The content of these age-appropriate materials will include:  1) the importance of safe and healthy choices and coping strategies, 2) how to recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental disorders and suicide in oneself and others, 3) help-seeking strategies for oneself or others, including how to engage school resources and refer friends for help.

In addition, schools may provide supplemental small-group suicide prevention programming for students.

This policy will be distributed annually and included in all student and teacher handbooks and on the school website.

Assessment and Referral
When a student is identified by a staff person as potentially suicidal (i.e., verbalizes about suicide, presents overt risk factors), the act of self-harm occurs, or a student self-refers, the student shall be seen by a District mental health staff member to assess risk and facilitate referral.  If a mental health professional is not available, a school nurse or Administrator will fill this role until a mental health professional can be contacted.  The Assistant Superintendent for Exceptional Education and Student Services and/or the Coordinator of Student Services shall be available for consultation as needed.  In addition, the District shall foster interagency collaboration to enable Administration and/or mental health staff to identify and access appropriate community resources and supports for students and families.

Parental Notification and InvolvementIn situations where a student is assessed to be at risk for suicide, the student’s parent or guardian will be informed as soon as practicable by the Principal, designee, or mental health staff member.  If the student has exhibited any kind of suicidal behavior, the parent or guardian should be counseled on “means restriction,” limiting the child’s access to mechanisms for carrying out a suicide attempt.  Staff will also seek parental permission to communicate with outside mental health care providers regarding their child.

Through discussion with the student, the Principal or District mental health professional will assess whether there is further risk of harm due to parent or guarding notification.  If the Principal, designee, or mental health staff member believes, in their professional capacity, that contact to the parent or guardian would endanger the health or well-being of the student, such contact may be delayed as appropriate.  If contact is delayed, the reasons for the delay must be documented.  Child Protective Services shall also be contacted when appropriate.

The building crisis team shall implement procedures as articulated in the District Crisis Team manual.  A meeting of the crisis team to implement the action plan is to take place immediately following the news of the suicide death.

Policy References:

  • #3410 – Anti-Harassment in the School District
  • #5681 – School Safety Plans
  • #7552 – Bullying: Peer Abuse in the Schools
  • #7553 – Hazing of Students