On Wednesday, LGBTQ community members and supporters convened in front of the Senate Education Committee to testify in support of SB 52, Adi’s Act, to provide each school district with model suicide prevention policy and require that each district have a policy in place.
The need is pressing. In 2017, the Oregon Health Authority’s Healthy Teens Survey uncovered a startling reality:
- Nearly half of lesbian, gay or bisexual 8th graders have contemplated suicide
- Close to a quarter of lesbian, gay or bisexual 8th graders have attempted suicide
- Almost a third of transgender 8th graders have attempted suicide
These numbers are staggering and alarming. But each number also reflects a person. This bill is named after Adi Staub, a young girl who died by suicide in 2017, who struggled at her high school after coming out as transgender. Her parents, Lon and Christine Staub, were present to testify about Adi’s experiences and why Adi’s Act is so important.
After coming out after her sophomore year, Adi initially blossomed. Yet when she returned to school, there were classmates and teachers who misgendered and misnamed her, sometimes intentionally and repeatedly. During her senior year English class, Adi voiced a rare cry for help on an assignment in which students were asked to draft a memoir.
“Her story centered on the self-destructive thoughts she was feeling, including a statement in which she said ‘I often worry for my future safety,'” Lon and Christine said. “Tragically, in response she only received minor grammatical suggestions. The teacher did not reach out to us or report it to the administration. We only read her paper months after she was gone.”
Sadly, for so many of us in the LGBTQ community, suicidal ideation is all too familiar. Our Executive Director, Nancy Haque, shared her personal story with the committee.
“I wrote my first suicide note as a fourth grader. As a young, queer person, with working class immigrant parents who knew nothing of my struggles, I had few places to turn. In sixth grade, I wrote a short story for school which centered around suicide,” Nancy said. “After reading it, my teacher, Mr. Wolf, told me that he had discussed my story with the principal, because there was a policy in place that whenever a student mentioned suicide, they would make sure to check in with both the principal and the student. Just having the conversation helped me feel seen, knowing there was someone who knew that maybe things weren’t as okay as I tried to pretend they were.”
Protecting LGBTQ youth
This is why schools need to have the right knowledge, tools, and resources to address concerns around youth suicide. Basic Rights Oregon is advocating for Adi’s Act which is a youth suicide prevention bill that provides all school districts in Oregon with a model suicide prevention policy based on national best practices—something that Oregon currently lacks. Adi’s Act will require all school districts to have a suicide prevention policy including procedures relating to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. It will also address populations at higher risk for youth suicide, including LGBTQ youth, youth of color, youth with disabilities and foster youth. It’s an important step for protecting and supporting LGBTQ youth like Adi.
“Adi was an activist who sought to change the world and we are committed to ensuring that we continue her fight for justice,” said Lon and Christine. “Part of her legacy is ensuring that we take critical steps to create a more loving, affirming world for the many students like Adi who stand out because of their differences.”
Adi’s Act is vital to making sure that all kids, no matter how they identify or who they love, are protected, supported, and see a future for themselves in Oregon.