Governor Gary Herbert ceremonially signed a package of student safety bills this morning at Cyprus High School in Magna. He also spoke to students about preventing suicide among kids in Utah.
The new laws are aimed at preventing youth suicide, bullying and teen traffic accidents caused by distracted driving. But the occasion was mostly focused on suicide, which according to the Utah Department of Health is the second leading cause of death among Utah youth and young adults.
“I believe we’re here to help each other, to make things better, to smooth out some of the bumps in the road for each other," Governor Herbert says. "And if we’ll do that, we’ll have a much better time in life we can eliminate this really sad statistic."
Cyprus Sophomore Jane Burns says she’s still recovering from the suicide of one of her friends, which she says might have been prevented with some adult intervention.
“In movies they have this stigma where they don’t have any friends but it’s not really like that," Burns says. "A lot of people do have people to turn to. I just think everyone should really connect to their councilor. After dealing with my friend’s passing away, I have been talking to my councilor and it genuinely has made me feel better.”
House Bill 103 outlaws teens talking on a cell phone while driving. HB 134 requires schools to notify parents if their child is being bullied or threatens to commit suicide. HB 154 requires the state board of education to create a suicide prevention program for school districts and charter schools. HB 298 requires the state board of education to provide seminars for parents on suicide, substance abuse, bullying and internet safety.
Bud Peterson’s 13-year-old son Buddy took his life this January after being bullied.
“Had we have known, I feel that yes, we could have stopped it," Peterson says. "Yes my son would still be here today. There is no question.”
Peterson says with the passage of these new laws, schools will start involving parents and stop trying to deal with bullying issues internally.