Rep. Peters’ Student Safety Bill Passes House, Headed to President’s Desk to Become Law
February 28, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate version of Rep. Scott Peters’ (D-CA-52) STANDUP Act to encourage schools to implement evidence-based suicide prevention training for students in grades 6 through 12. The bipartisan bill, introduced in the House by Reps. Peters and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) in February 2021 and then in the Senate by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) in December 2021, is now headed to the White House to be signed into law.
“Among the alarming mental health challenges facing the nation’s youth, recent trends in suicidal ideation, self-harm, and violence are cause for particular concern. The good news is that our STANDUP Act, once signed into law, will help equip students and educators with skills necessary to identify, intervene, and get help for those at risk of harming themselves or others,” said Rep. Peters. “I want to thank my congressional partners – Representative Bilirakis and Senators Hassan and Ernst – and Sandy Hook Promise, who helped push this life-saving effort across the finish line. We all want our kids to have a safe, inclusive learning community and know this legislation will help achieve that goal.”
“There is no higher priority than keeping our children safe. By providing high quality screening and prevention training to school staff and peers, we can identify threats before they materialize, and ensure that those who are at risk get the mental health treatment they need. I’ve seen first-hand how effective these programs can be when I visited a high school in Pinellas which has already implemented these best practices. Sadly, some communities in my district are among those with the highest suicide rates in our state, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. With training like this, we can help reverse that troubling trend,” said Rep. Bilirakis.
“The more schools that offer suicide prevention training, the more we can empower youth to help themselves and their peers,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. “I am grateful to U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) along with U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Scott Peters (D-CA) for championing this important, life-saving legislation. Because of their staunch support, countless youth who are suffering in the shadows may finally get the help they need.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-24, with cases of suicide among Black and other minority youth notably rising in recent years. Reports also indicate the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated children’s and teens’ anxiety, depression, and isolation, which are stressors commonly associated with suicide.
Adolescent suicide and violence can be prevented: 70 percent of people who die by suicide tell someone their plans or demonstrate warning signs, and 80 percent of school shooters tell someone their plans prior to acting. The STANDUP Act’s policies are key to stopping school violence and youth suicide by encouraging early prevention, teaching children and adults to heed warning signs, and giving educators and administrators the tools they need to stop violence before it happens.
The STANDUP Act requires states, schools and Tribes to implement proven policies to prevent suicides in order to receive Project AWARE grants, which promote youth mental health awareness among schools and communities. These policies are vital in stopping school violence by encouraging early prevention, teaching warning signs and giving students, teachers, and administrators the tools they need to react properly to threats before tragedy occurs.
Rep. Peters first introduced this bill with Rep. Bilirakis in 2019 with the support of Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL-22) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), prior to his visit to Bernardo Heights Middle School in Rancho Bernardo where he met with student advocates for the school’s Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) Promise Club and the Mental Health Awareness Club. The students shared their experiences involving the “Start with Hello” inclusivity project and “See Something, Say Something” prevention program, initiatives like those the STANDUP Act would seek to expand to schools across the country.
This year, Reps. Val Demings (FL-10), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Fred Upton (MI-06), John Katko (NY-24), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Jim Himes (CT-04) and Tim Ryan (OH-13) joined Reps. Deutch and Fitzpatrick as original cosponsors.
“One of the keys to preventing school violence is equipping students, teachers, and administrators with the skills they need to properly react to potential threats before a tragedy occurs,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I applaud the passage of our bipartisan STANDUP Act, which will ensure that our schools are provided high-quality mental health screening and prevention training resources. We can prevent suicide and violence in our schools, and we must continue to work together in a bipartisan manner to prevent future tragedies from happening.”