The new law requires school counselors to be trained to recognize mental health disorders and behavioral distress, including depression, trauma, violence, youth suicide, and substance abuse. It was sponsored by Sen. Jeremy McPike, a Democrat representing Dale City and Manassas.
The law was inspired by 17-year-old David Cobb, who was a student at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas. David’s mother, Kimberly Fleming, said that David spoke to a counselor who did not realize the extent of David’s problem. He killed himself after being released from school. “Always knew how to make mama laugh. I miss him. I miss him very much,” Fleming said.
The counseling law is similar to a Maryland law inspired by the death of Lauryn Santiago, McPike said.
McPike met Santiago’s mother at a suicide prevention walk last year when they shared how they both lost someone. McPike lost a brother; she lost a child who was bullied. They discussed how they might improve counseling efforts.
“There’s a whole network of parents and family members who have lost a loved one who say, ‘We don’t want this ever to happen again — we have to step up,'” McPike said.