Senate education panel approves its own version of drop out age bill and suicide prevention bill

02/14/2013 01:35 PM

UPDATED WITH VIDEO — The Senate’s approach to raising the age in which any student can drop out of high school would allow — but not require — school districts to set that age at 18.

The measure, Senate Bill 97 , unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee Thursday.

Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, told the committee that this approach would allow districts to make their own decisions about how to help students who are at risk of dropping out. And they can do it at their own pace, Givens said.

This is a different approach than what the House is taking. The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, would require all districts to raise the drop out age from 16 to 17 in 2017 and to 18 the following year.

Givens said districts need to set up alternative programs to engage those students at risk of dropping out and work on helping students identify what they want to do after graduation, either in college or as a career. “Suddenly education has relevance,” he said.

A student currently can’t drop out on his or her own until 18 but could drop out at 16 with parental permission.

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green and the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said after the meeting he hadn’t yet spoken to House Education Committee Chairman Carl Rollins about ways to compromise between the two approaches.

Suicide prevention bill passes after emotional testimony

The panel, Wednesday, also unanimously approved legislation to require social workers, therapists and other health care workers and counselors to take suicide prevention training.

Stephen Ulrich, whose 20-year-old son killed himself while at Western Kentucky University nearly 11 years ago, offered emotional testimony to underscore that suicide is a most preventable death if people know the warning signs.

Ulrich said one out of every 10 students in college “has a plan to commit suicide.”

Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, sponsored the measure — a follow-up to a bill that passed three years ago requiring teachers and school workers to take suicide prevention training. Seum lost a son-in-law to suicide.

And he said addressing the issue has never been more urgent amid increasing suicide rates among U.S. military personnel and veterans.

“It is incomprehensible that in many states, a teacher is required to have suicide prevention training” but not mental health professionals, Ulrich said.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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