Colorado state lawmakers focusing on suicide prevention in upcoming legislation

A Colorado State representative is advocating for legislature aimed at bullying.

DENVER - After a 10-year-old student in Aurora took her own life, a father of another student says bullying at that particular school might be a bigger problem than it was first thought.

Since learning about his son being mistreated by another student, Jordan Helmer says his kid will be transferring from Sunrise Elementary School to another school this week. His son is physically and verbally picked on, Helmer said, and last week he learned just how bad it was.

"My son was assaulted at the school," Helmer said. "This kid tried to take his scooter from him and [my son] said no. The kid ended up kicking him in the throat."

Helmer said he would have never heard about the incident had it not been for another parent messaging him on Facebook. After that, Helmer said he immediately went to the school to talk to the principal and learned they hadn't even heard about it.

"My son had never been sent to the nurse's office to be checked out," he said. "I found this out in hindsight and, again, I wasn't called."

Sunrise Elementary School is the same school Ashawnty Davis,10, attended. Her parents said she, too, was bullied which is why she took her own life last week.

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"I told the principal incidents like what is happening to my son right now leads to incidents like what just happened," Helmer said.

Cherry Creek School District said they could not speak to individual incidents and released the following statement:

"We do not tolerate bullying, fighting, or any behavior that endangers another child in our schools and we take all reports of such behavior very seriously. Any time a report of this kind is made to the school, we investigate the report and work with students and families to address the behavior, stop it from happening and make sure students feel safe. Student safety and wellbeing is our highest priority."

Colorado legislators working on solution to preventing suicide

Colorado State Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet is saddened by the news of Davis and said she's tried to a make a law in the past that might have prevented her death by suicide.

"We need to make sure that our kids are having access to these licensed regulated professionals to have a conversation so that they get appropriate guidance," she said.

Suicide prevention among kids is an issue Michaelson Jenet is close to because her own son tried to take his life when he was only 9 years old.

"We hadn't met his needs and gotten him what he needed," she said. "He finally said, 'I'm done,' and he attempted to go out the window in the classroom."

Michaelson Jenet isn't only focused on giving students more access to counselors, but making sure they can do it confidentially.

Under current law, the youngest a student can see a counselor without a parent's consent is 15 years old. Initially, Michaelson Jenet wanted that age lowered to 10, but opponents of her bill said that age was too young to do anything without a parent being involved.

Joel Malecka, The Colorado House Republicans communication director, said if her bill passed then not only would the information students give counselors be private, but so would the advice counselors give the students.

Michael Jenet's bill was voted down and she said Davis' death shows exactly why such a bill is needed.

Now, she is working on a similar bill, but this time she's trying to reduce the age to 12 rather than 10.

"For some of our kids, when they come to the counseling center at school and they say they want to talk to the therapist and the therapist has to say, 'Hey, I need to call your mom and dad first,' the kid might choose to walk away."

State Senator Nancy Todd is also looking to prevent more suicides among students through legal action. She's proposing a bill that would provide extra suicide prevention training for teachers and staff through grants.

Todd is a former teacher and said she knows how much it hurts to have students take their own lives. She said students need to be around teacher and staff who are highly qualified and know when to seek the help of higher levels of intervention to get students the help they need.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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