Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman
Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
I am proud of Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb for his leadership and applaud the members of the Commission on School Security for their recommendations to improve the safety of our schools and students.
Like most of you who have children, when I hear about a child who has been hurt or killed or who has committed suicide I become very upset. I imagine losing my own daughter or seeing her hurt. I believe most Oklahomans will wholeheartedly endorse the commission’s recommendations: to form an Oklahoma School Security Institute, establish a mental health first aid training pilot program, consolidate safety drills, require the reporting of firearms to local law enforcement and establish a school security tip line.
Bullying is tied very closely to school safety, because young people who are bullied and especially those who are mentally ill can become unstable. We have all heard of suicides resulting from bullying and there also have been stories of shooters whose mental health issues were further aggravated by bullying. I was especially upset about the suicide of a young man who was set to enroll in Douglass Mid-High.
Teen suicides are on the rise in our state. Five Oklahoma students committed suicide, 43 attempted suicide and 37,551 reports of bullied students were made during the 2010-11 school year, according to the state superintendent’s office. There were 484 calls from suicidal children made to the Family & Children’s Services COPES hotline in the past year. Students from across the state who are aware of the dangers of bullying commemorate the death of Ty Smalley every year, who killed himself after being bullied.
One bill making its way through the process this year would create middle school health courses that would address bullying and mental health, among other topics. House Bill 2279 has bipartisan support. The only thing standing in its way is that it would cost money and, with so many budget requests, this important measure is often overlooked.
There also are many excellent community resources available to schools.
Locally, the Eagle Ridge Institute Eagle Wings program mentors high-risk youth and addresses bullying prevention. The organization serves more than 700 children each year, receiving some of those children via recommendations from surrounding schools Douglas, Centennial, Northeast Academy and Rogers Middle School as well as calls from parents with children who are having difficulties with communication.
COPES Inc. provides mental health and rehabilitation services including marriage counseling, behavioral counseling and substance abuse treatment.
I’ve worked in the past with the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy who regularly makes legislative recommendations to improve the wellbeing of children in our state.
I plan to be among those pushing for the enactment of the Commission on School Safety’s recommendations into law. I hope you will join me in lending your voice to the effort and would also ask that you join me and students from across Oklahoma in our annual anti-bullying rally at the Capitol each May.
REP. ANASTASIA A. PITMAN represents House District 99, which includes portions of Oklahoma City and Nichols Hills. She can be contacted at 557-7393.