At Forest Park High School on Tuesday, June 6, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed two new laws that will help to prevent bullying and help students to focus on their education.With the signing of two new laws, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and school officials hope to keep students from being bullied and to employ properly trained counselors who can address bullying issues as well as recognize behavioral stress and mental health disorders. The new laws require that counselors in schools must be trained to be able to identify behavioral symptoms and mental health disorders such as trauma, substance abuse, and depression, as well as individuals who may have suicidal tendencies. Senator Jeremy McPike, who represents of Manassas and Dale City, sponsored Senate Bill 1117, while Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn sponsored House Bill 1709, both of which will take effect on July 1. The new laws were inspired by former Osbourn Park High School student David Cobb. Cobb had spoken to a school counselor who was not able to recognize the extent of his problem. Upon being released from school, David killed himself.
Virginia’s new counseling law is very much like the Maryland law that was inspired by former student Lauryn Santiago who also took her own life. Senator McPike and Santiago’s mother met last year at a suicide prevention walk where they shared their stories and discussed how counseling efforts in schools might be improved. McPike lost his own brother and stated that many parents and families have lost a loved one and that efforts must be stepped up to prevent future instances. The second of the two laws (Bill 1709) requires that parents must be contacted within five days if the child is in any way possibly involved in a bullying case. Bill 1709 was inspired by 17-year-old Brandon Farbstein, who was a victim of cyber-bullying. Farbstein has a rare diagnosis of dwarfism and is the height of an average six-and-a-half-year-old boy. Filler-Corn was contacted by the Farbstein family and said that representatives and school officials "can and should do better." Filler-Corn’s law puts into place a uniform protocol that enacts a school response to alleged and potential bullying incidents. The hope is that communication will flow both ways, according to Brandon Farbstein’s mother Sylvia.
What do you think? Will these new laws help prevent bullying and suicide? Tell us in the comments.