2145 Recognition, Screening, and Response to Distress in Students

  • The board of directors recognizes that suicide is a leading cause of death among youth and that suicidal indicators such as substance abuse and violence are complex issues that should be taken seriously.  While district staff may recognize potentially suicidal youth and the district can make an initial risk assessment, the district cannot provide in-depth mental health counseling.  Instead, the board directs district staff to refer students who exhibit suicidal behaviors to an appropriate service for further assessment and treatment.

    District staff who have knowledge of a suicide threat must take the proper steps as specified in the following administrative procedures, to support the student and to report this information to the building principal or designee who will, in turn, notify the appropriate school officials, the student’s family and appropriate resource services.

    The board also recognizes the need for youth suicide prevention procedures.  The district will adopt and, at the beginning of each school year, provide to all district staff a plan for recognizing, screening, referring and responding to students in emotional or behavioral distress.  At a minimum, the plan will:

    • Identify training opportunities for staff on recognizing, screening and referral of students in emotional or behavioral distress, including those who exhibit indicators of substance abuse, violence or suicide;
    • Describe how to utilize the expertise of district staff trained in recognition, screening and referral;
    • Provide guidelines, based on staff expertise, for responding to suspicions, concerns or warning signs of emotional or behavioral distress;
    • Address development of partnerships with community organizations and agencies for referral of students to support services, to include development of at least one memorandum of understanding between the district and one such entity;
    • Contain procedures for communication with parents;
    • Describe how staff should respond to a crisis situation where a student is in imminent danger to himself or herself or others;
    • Describe how the district will provide support to students and staff after an incident of violence or student suicide.

    The superintendent will develop and implement the plan and a staff training schedule to achieve the board’s goals and objectives.

    Cross References:
    Board Policy
    2140  Guidance and Counseling
    3207  Prohibition of Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying
    3211  Transgender Students

    Legal References:
    RCW 28A.410.043  School Counselor Certification
    RCW 28A.320.127  Plan for recognition, screening, and response to emotional or behavioral distress in students       
    RCW 28A.410.226  Washington professional educator standards board –Training program on youth suicide screening – Certificates for school nurses, social workers, psychologists and counselors –Adoption of standards
    RCW 28A.320.1271  Model school district plan for recognition, initial screening, and response to emotional or behavioral distress in students 

    Management Resources:
    Policy & Legal News  April 2011; December 2014

    ADOPTED: 04/23/2015

    Procedure No. 2145 Recognition, Screening, and Response to Distress in Students
    A.  Prevention

    Suicide prevention strategies may include, but are not be limited to, efforts to promote a positive school climate that enhances students’ feelings of connectedness with the school and each other, and is characterized by caring staff and harmonious interrelationships among students.

    1. Student Responsibility
      The district will encourage students to notify a teacher, principal, counselor or other adult when they are experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide or when they suspect or have knowledge of another student’s despair or suicidal intentions.
    2. Staff Training
      The district’s suicide prevention training will help staff identify and respond to students at risk of suicide. The training will be offered under the direction of a district counselor/ psychologist and/or in cooperation with one or more community mental health or public health agencies and may include information on:
    1. Identifying risk factors such as previous suicide attempts, history of depression or mental illness, substance use problems, bullying and harassment, family history of suicide or violence, feelings of isolation, interpersonal conflicts, a recent severe stressor or loss, family instability and other factors;
    2. Warning signs that may indicate suicidal intentions, including changes in students’ appearance, personality or behavior;
    3. School and community resources/services; and
    4. District procedures for intervening when a student attempts, threatens, discloses the desire to commit suicide or displays other indicators.

    3.  Principal/Designee Prevention Planning
    School administrative teams will designate specific individuals to be promptly contacted regarding a suicide threat including the school counselor, psychologist, nurse, superintendent, the student’s parent/guardian and, as necessary, local law enforcement or mental health agencies.

    The principal or counselor will communicate a reentry plan to provide support for students and staff after a suicide attempt.


    Whenever a staff member suspects or has knowledge of a student’s suicidal intentions they will take proper steps to support the student, promptly notify the principal or school counselor and request that appropriate school staff conduct an initial risk interview.

    The principal or counselor will then notify the student’s parents/guardians as soon as possible, unless notification of the parents will jeopardize the student’s safety. The district may also refer the student to mental health resources in the community.

    Additionally, the principal or designee will ensure the student’s physical safety by one of the following as appropriate:

    1. Secure immediate medical treatment if a suicide attempt has occurred;
    2. Secure emergency assistance if a suicidal act is being actively threatened;
    3. Keep the student under continuous adult supervision until the parent/guardian and/or appropriate support agent or agency can be contacted and has the opportunity to intervene;
    4. Document the incident and disposition in writing as soon as feasible;
    5. Follow-up with the parent/guardian and student, in a timely manner, to provide referrals to appropriate services as needed;
    6. Provide access to counselors or other appropriate personnel to listen to and support students and staff who are directly or indirectly involved with the incident; or
    7. Provide an opportunity for all who respond to the incident to debrief, evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies used and make recommendations for future actions.

     C.  Parent Responsibility

    If a student is determined to be at risk, the principal or designee will contact the parent/guardian and:

    1. Ask the parent/guardian whether they are aware of the student’s mental state;
    2. Ask the parent/guardian how they will obtain mental counseling or appropriate support for the student;
    3. Provide names of community counseling resources, if appropriate, and offer to facilitate the referral;
    4. Determine the parent’s/guardian’s intent to seek appropriate services for the student; and
    5. Discuss the student’s reentry into school.

    D.  Post–Event

    In the event that a suicide occurs or is attempted, the principal or designee will follow the crisis intervention procedures contained in the District’s Critical Incident Guide.

    After consultation with the Superintendent or designee and the student’s parents/guardians about facts that may be divulged in accordance with the laws governing confidentiality of student record information, the principal or designee may provide students, parents/guardians, and staff with information, counseling and/or referrals to community agencies as needed.

    School administrators may receive assistance from school counselors or other mental health professionals in determining how best to discuss the suicide or attempted suicide with students and staff.

    Following a suicide, the district will also assess the impact within all schools and the local community and provide appropriate information and support.

    E.  Communications

    All requests for specific information regarding an incident will be directed to the building principal or designee.

    F.  Resources

    The district will utilize school counselors, the crisis telephone hotline, physician/health care providers, mental health specialists, coaches and youth leaders, parents and clergy as resources for prevention and intervention.  The district will also develop partnerships with community organizations and agencies and a memorandum of understanding with at least one of these programs for referral of students to support services.  Community resources include:

    1.  Prevention Resources:
         a.  Washington Youth Suicide Prevention Program, www.yspp.org, 206-297-5922;
         b.  Washington State Department of Health, www.doh.wa.gov/preventsuicide,360-236-2800;
         c.  True North Student Assistance Program, 360-464-6849; and
         d.  211 System – This is an information referral service, it assists with providing resources in your community.          

    2.  Crisis Response Resources:
        a.  Emergency Response: 911
        b.  Providence St. Peter Hospital: 360-491-9480;
        c.  National LifeLine: 1-800-273 and Talk (8255)
        d.  Local Community Mental Health Centers: Olympia Behavioral Health Center: 360-491-1399; SeaMar, Lacey Behavioral Health Center: 360-359-4880; Greater Lakes Mental HealthCare: 253-620-5000

    ADOPTED: 04/23/2015

2000 Policies