SECTION 1. Section 95 of chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2018 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after subsection (d) the following new subsections:-
(e) The department, subject to appropriation, shall adopt rules to require that all public school districts and commonwealth charter schools serving students in grades 7 to 12, inclusive, adopt a policy on student suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention for said students. The policy shall be developed in consultation with school and community stakeholders, school-employed mental health professionals and suicide prevention experts. Elements of this policy shall include, but not be limited to (1) increasing awareness of the relationship between suicide and suicide risk factors including, but not limited to: (a) mental health and substance use conditions; (b) childhood abuse, neglect or trauma; (c) stress factors, including, but not limited to, bullying, harassment or relationship problems; (d) stressful life events, including, but not limited to, rejection, breakup or loss of a relationship; (e) exposure to another person’s suicide or sensationalized or graphic accounts of suicide; and (f) previous suicide attempts, a family history of suicide or a family history of attempted suicide; (2) identifying training opportunities in recognizing suicide risk and referral procedures that may be available for school employees; (3) using the expertise of school employees who have been trained in recognizing suicide risk and referral procedures; (4) training school employees on how to respond to suspicion, concerns or warning signs of suicide; (5) training school employees on how to respond to a crisis situation where a student is in imminent danger to himself or herself; (6) establishing policies and protocols for communication with parents, including specifying what to do should parental notification not be in the best interest of the student; (7) counseling services within the school for students and their families related to suicide prevention; (8) making information concerning crisis intervention, suicide prevention and mental health services in the community for students and their families and school employees available; (9) identifying and developing partnerships with community organizations and agencies for referring students to health, mental health, substance use and social support services, including developing at least one memorandum of understanding between the local education agency and such an entity in the community or region of the public school district or commonwealth charter school; and (10) developing a plan to assist survivors of attempted suicide, and to assist students and school employees in coping with an attempted suicide or a suicide within the school community.
(f) The policy shall specifically address the needs of high-risk groups, including, but not limited to, one or more students: (1) bereaved by suicide; (2) with disabilities or with chronic health conditions, including mental health and substance use conditions; (3) experiencing homelessness or in out-of-home settings, such as foster care; and (4) identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
(g) The policy shall ensure that a school employee acts only within the authorization and scope of the employee’s credential or license. Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing or encouraging a school employee to diagnose or treat mental health conditions unless the employee is specifically licensed and employed to do so.
(h) No cause of action may be brought for any loss or damage caused by any act or omission resulting from the implementation of the provisions of this section, or resulting from any training, or lack of training, required by this section. Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose any specific duty of care.
(i) To assist local educational agencies in developing policies for student suicide prevention, the department shall develop and maintain a model policy in accordance with this section to serve as a guide for local educational agencies. The model policy shall be posted by the department on its website along with relevant resources and information to support schools in developing and implementing said policy.
(j) The governing board or body of each public school district and commonwealth charter school serving students in grades 7 to 12 shall review, at least every fifth year, its policy on student suicide prevention and, if necessary, update its policy.
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