Intervening with a Potential Suicide
When a student threatens suicide or manifests the signs of her/his intent, immediate action must be taken by district staff to intervene on behalf of the student. It is not the responsibility of school personnel to make a formal assessment of risk or do necessary in-depth counseling; however, school personnel are in the position and have the duty to make appropriate referrals and assist families in securing immediate, formal assessments.
Reporting the Information
Any district employee who has knowledge of a suicide threat shall report this information immediately to the counselor at the school the student attends. If the employee is not knowledgeable of the specific school the student attends or who to contact, they shall report the information to the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) Counseling Department or the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department. If the student has been assigned a school social worker, the threat may be reported to the social worker instead of the school counselor. If the school counselor or school social worker is not on campus, the threat shall be reported to the school nurse. If the school nurse is unavailable, the threat shall be reported to an Albuquerque Public Schools psychologist. In addition, the principal shall be apprised of the situation by the school counselor or any other district employee who has received knowledge of a suicide threat if the school counselor is not present.
When a student is previously established as a School-Based Health Center (SBHC) patient and presents with active suicidality, an available SBHC provider assesses student harmfulness and determines the best disposition for the student. The parent/legal guardian, shall be notified, consistent with the Albuquerque Public Schools procedure, and their participation will be requested. The SBHC provider shall notify school counselor and administration of the outcome.
The school counselor (or social worker, nurse, or psychologist, if the school counselor is not on campus), shall interview the student and, unless there are extenuating circumstances, shall follow the “Counselor’s Responsibilities in Responding to a Potentially Suicidal Student” to guide the process.
Parent/Legal Guardian Contact
The parent/legal guardian shall be notified immediately after the interview. The school counselor, or social worker, nurse, or school psychologist, shall request that the parent come to pick up the student and take him/her for an emergency assessment. While waiting for the parent/legal guardian, the student shall remain in the office and under constant supervision by a school employee. The student shall not be left alone under any circumstance.
If a parent/legal guardian refuses to pick up the student and/or schedule an emergency assessment, the school counselor, social worker, nurse, or school psychologist shall document the parent/legal guardian refusal and may report neglect to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.
All documentation regarding the intervention, interview, and communication with parents/legal guardians shall be kept in the student’s counseling file and not in the student’s cumulative file. The school counselor, social worker, nurse, or school psychologist shall submit a completed Data Reporting form to the APS Safety Resource Counselor in the District Counseling Department with two business days of the referral for suicide assessment.
Albuquerque Public Schools shall provide a same-day emergency suicide assessment for all referrals made before 4:00p.m. on a school day, at no cost to the family, through an agency contracted for that purpose. The assessment shall determine if the student is at risk of immediate self-harm and shall provide appropriate recommendations to the parent/legal guardian. A parent/legal guardian has the option of taking their student to another facility of their choice that is equipped to do emergency suicide assessments, which shall be at their own expense.
If a parent/legal guardian cannot be reached and school officials believe the student to be a great risk, the counselor shall consult with the District Counseling Department immediately.
Principals, school counselors and other appropriate parties shall not make any decisions related to emergency placement of the student. The decision to transport the student to the hospital for an evaluation shall be the responsibility and decision of the parent/legal guardian. If the parent/legal guardian cannot be contacted, or refuses to take the student for an evaluation, the school principal, school counselor, school nurse, Albuquerque Public Schools psychologist and District Counseling Department shall consult and law enforcement may transport the student, by ambulance, to the hospital for an evaluation.
If the student has recently attempted suicide, the school nurse shall be contacted immediately to determine the appropriate course of action.
New Mexico Child, Youth and Family Department Involvement
The New Mexico Child, Youth and Families Department does not act on suicide threats unless they are accompanied by suspected child abuse or neglect. Therefore, if abuse or a history of abuse is suspected, the school counselor or appropriate party shall contact the New Mexico Child, Youth and Families Department to file a report and to determine next steps. If there is no suspected abuse or neglect, the New Mexico Child, Youth and Families Department shall not be contacted. However, should no action be taken by the parent/legal guardian after a suicide threat and/or attempt, this may be viewed as neglect and must be reported as such.
Training and Professional Development
Annually, the principal shall ensure that all school employees are advised about the warning signs of suicide as well as Board of Education policies and administrative procedural directives concerning potentially suicidal students. Principals shall collaborate with the school counselor to assure all staff members receive the appropriate information at the beginning of each school year. Online training, which will fulfill this requirement, will be provided by the Albuquerque Public Schools; requests for face-to-face or additional training can be made by contacting the District Counseling Department. All suicide prevention training, curriculum, multimedia, student programs, and events must be pre-approved by the Director of Counseling.
Administrative Position: Assistant Superintendent of School and Community Supports
Department Director: Executive Director of Student, Family and Community Supports
Division/Counseling Department Director
Legal Cross Ref.: New Mexico Office of School and Adolescent Health regulations
Board Policy Cross Ref.: JL3 – Emergency Medical Services and Do Not Resuscitate
JL4- School-Linked and School-Based Health Services
Procedural Directive Cross Ref.: Counselor’s Responsibilities in Responding to a Potential Suicide
Counseling and Consulting Services
Forms Cross Ref.: Parent/Legal Guardian Refusal Form