FARMINGTON — Working to prevent suicides and, when necessary, working to deal with them is a priority for Davis School District, according to officials.
A crisis team made up of 27 counselors and school psychologists stands ready to help Davis School District students when there is a death, a natural disaster or an accident.
Already this year, there have been nine incidents and five of them were suicides, according to Casey Layton, director of the Crisis Response Team. Four of the suicides were by students, and one was a teacher.
“I don’t know if it’s high or low” for an average year, Layton told the Davis School Board on March 5, “but it is too many.”
In addition, nine students have had a parent die this year, he said. Eight of those deaths were confirmed suicides.
Layton is also the director of comprehensive guidance and counseling in the district. Together with Brad Christensen, director of student services, he presented information to the board about what district leaders are doing to prevent suicides.
As required by a new state law, all licensed employees must attend two hours of suicide prevention training every five years.
In Davis School District, that training was extended to include “any adult that has any relation to a child,” said Christensen, including cooks, bus drivers and custodians.
“That wasn’t required,” he said, “but it was important to us.”
For the first hour, district employees undergoing the training view a video provided by the Utah State Office of Education. The video identifies behaviors that indicate a student may be at risk and outlines steps teachers and other personnel can take to ensure the student gets help.
Information specific to Davis School District on resources, processes and protocols is presented in the second hour. That includes information on how to prevent suicides, how to intervene, and how to “prevent contagion,” said Christensen.
“Two hours every five years is not even close to enough,” said Layton, “but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Layton was assistant principal at Clearfield High last year when two students committed suicide within three days.
The crisis team manages everything from making condolence visits to countering rumors, from cleaning out lockers to taking names off school rolls so parents won’t be called about absense.
How to memorialize a student in the case of a suicide is also carefully managed so that the suicide is not glamorized. Grief counseling in groups or with individuals is provided, and parents are notified if their children are attending those sessions.
Several organizations, including the school district, are collaborating to hold a suicide prevention training program at Syracuse High School.
“We are trying to be proactive and focus on prevention,” said Layton. “We want to give people resources and show them there are people they can talk to.”