Teachers need training to spot troubled youth

A new Ohio law requiring that both public and private school teachers be trained in recognizing students who may be considering suicide, and in doing something about it, is an excellent idea. But at the same time, another kind of training regarding youths with psychological problems should be provided.

Recognizing the signs of a suicidal youth and knowing how to prevent him or her from following through indeed is important. For Americans between 10 and 24 years of age, suicide is the third leading cause of death. About 4,600 of them take their own lives each year. According to one estimate, nearly 20 percent of high school students have considered suicide.

While educators certainly have plenty on their plates already, they often notice disturbing behavior by students. Training them to intervene effectively, when necessary, may save lives in Ohio.

But as Buckeye State residents know too well, students can have psychological problems that threaten others, too.

Memories of what happened earlier this year in Chardon still are painfully clear. There, in February, a student opened fire in his high school, killing three youths and wounding several others. But for the actions of two heroic teachers, the toll might have been higher.

The killer at Chardon High School had a troubled, sometimes violent past. School administrators already knew at least something of that; he had been transferred out of Chardon to another school.

Could T.J. Lane’s violent outbreak have been anticipated? That is difficult to say. Studies of youths who have committed similar crimes indicate behavior identifying a potential killer can be difficult to spot.

Obviously, however, it is more difficult to identify such youths if the educators around them have no training in such matters.

Providing at least some education in what can lead a student to become homicidal could save lives in Ohio schools. So state officials should consider a new requirement, working hand-in-hand with the one intended to prevent suicides. It could give teachers and school administrators the tools they need to recognize youths who are both self-destructive and / or ready to explode in rage.