SALT LAKE CITY — Bullying has grabbed the Utah Legislature's attention over the years, but the state's 4-year-old anti-bullying law isn't enough.
Utah lawmakers have been working on a half dozen bills specifically targeting bullying, including an anti-bullying and suicide prevention bill from Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy.
"It's the silent epidemic that's killing our children, that needs to be addressed," Eliason said.
Eliason's bill would require every school district in the state to consider what Provo School District's Hope Squad project is doing. The project brings students, peers and parents together to learn how to recognize suicidal signs and how to respond, according to the school's website.
By creating multifaceted parent seminars and resources on bullying, suicide awareness and substance abuse, the community has found a way to become more in tune to the issues and how to prevent teen tragedies. There's hasn't been a single Provo School District suicide in seven years.
Utah Suicide Statistics
- Utah has the 17th highest youth suicide rate in the country (ages 10-17) and 11th highest in young adults (ages 18-24).
- Two youth are treated for suicide attempts every day in Utah and three young adults are treated every day.
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Utah youth and young adults.
Because suicide is a major concern, early versions of proposed bills include language to boost awareness, and communication between schools and parents.
"It's hard to know who to fault more," said Rep. Carol Spackman-Moss, D-Holladay, who helped pass Utah's current anti-bullying law in 2008. "Did the school not respond? Did parents not recognize the signs? It's a very complex problem."
However, even legislators acknowledge bullying is an issue that must be approached from every angle, not just lawmaking.
"We need to tackle this head-on. We can't wait for more of our children to suffer," said Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, the sponsor of another anti-bullying bill for the 2013 legislative session. "There's been a lot of tragedies in the last year and we need to be more proactive."