More than 2 million students across New York State attend a school that doesn’t offer suicide prevention policies specifically addressing one of the most vulnerable populations: LGBTQ youth, according to a new study.
The report, conducted by the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention nonprofit The Trevor Project, also found that over one-third of school districts in the state don’t have any type of suicide prevention policy.
“It’s important to acknowledge the major role of schools when addressing the public health crisis of suicide — schools are where young people often spend a third of their day,” Amit Paley, the executive director of The Trevor Project, told the Daily News.
The rate of suicide among New York students ages 10-14 has doubled over the past decade, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, and LGBTQ kids experience suicidal thoughts more frequently than their peers. A Trevor Project survey of LGBTQ youth found only a quarter of such students with suicidal thoughts report them to teachers or school counselors.
Yet New York school districts have a patchwork approach to suicide prevention. Out of more than 700 school districts contacted by the Trevor Project, a third confirmed not having an explicit suicide prevention policy, while 42% did have a policy and 25% didn’t respond. Only 2% of the existing policies specifically addressed LGBTQ youth, the report found.
The organization also measured the extent to which existing policies included a range of best practices, including offering teacher training, providing services after a crisis is over, and building mental health education into the curriculum.
Almost all of the existing policies included prevention, intervention, and postvention services. Fewer included teacher training, and almost none laid out specific measure for LGBTQ students.
New York districts are required under state law to have policies for “threats of violence” in schools. While those policies mention suicide as one possible threat, they seldom outline specific suicide prevention practices, the report said.
California passed a law in 2016 requiring districts to adopt specific suicide prevention policies. A Trevor Project survey of that state found that the number of district policies with language specific to LGBTQ youth jumped from 3% of districts before the law to more than 90% after.
The state Education Department did not immediately return requests for comment.