NEOSHO, Mo. — The Neosho Board of Education this week unanimously approved a policy that outlines protocols and procedures for identifying and helping students who may be at risk of suicide.
A state law passed in 2017 requires all public school districts to implement such a policy by July 1. At least every three years after the implementation, beginning in 2021, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will receive feedback from districts about their experiences with the policy.
According to Neosho's policy, the school will establish a crisis response team that includes building administrators, counselors, resource officers and the school nurse. The team will receive training and coaching on safety planning strategies and how to assess suicide risk.
The plan also outlines steps to be followed if a school employee has reasonable belief that a student may be at risk for suicide. Those steps include:
• The employee must locate the student and not leave him or her alone unless it is determined that there is no longer a risk for suicide.
• The employee must notify the student's parents or guardians and notify a member of the crisis team so that they may conduct a risk assessment.
• The student will then be directed to meet with a parent or guardian and a counselor to discuss a safety plan.
The policy also outlines protocol for responding to a death by suicide, and says that Neosho students will receive education about suicide awareness and prevention in the spring of fifth grade, in seventh grade and in high school health classes.
Suicide prevention and awareness have become a prominent issue in the area, as at least eight students have died by suicide since the start of the 2017-18 school year. One of the students was Kassady Doty, 15, who attended Neosho High School. Her father, David Doty, addressed the school board Monday night, asking it to take action and continue to promote suicide prevention and awareness in the schools.
"I'm not here to ask for my daughter back because I know that's not in your power," Doty said. "But we can prevent this from happening to somebody else's child."
Chris Parks, mental health therapist at Restoring Hope Counseling Center in Neosho, also addressed the board to propose bringing mental health therapists into Neosho schools, making it easier for students to have access to mental health professionals.
Parks also proposed creating a committee made up of students, adults, community leaders and professionals who would begin discussion on suicide prevention and awareness for the area.
The full Neosho School District Youth Suicide Awareness and Prevention Policy, including a list of resources and additional information related to suicide prevention, can be viewed online at www.neoshosd.org.