Lawmakers move on legislation sparked by the suicide death of a Portsmouth teen

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WLNE) – Rhode Island lawmakers are moving on a bill that was sparked by the suicide death of a 15-year-old Portsmouth High School student.

Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives passed the “Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act”, which would require suicide prevention training for school personnel.

This follows a years-long effort by the father of Nathan Bruno. His son took his life in 2018 after rumors spread around school that he was one of the students responsible for making prank calls and texts to the high school football coach at the time.

The parents went after Portsmouth officials for how they handled it, including that they never told the family what was going on. They claimed their negligence caused their son to suffer “extreme emotional pain and mental anguish” which led to his suicide.

“It’s been a battle, a rollercoaster of grief. I’m really just trying to make some positive changes in the wake of a tragedy.” Rick Bruno, Nathan’s father said. “All the work we’ve done in the last few years, if it just brings some awareness, some education, and one person can be helped or saved, it’ll all be worth it.”

Nathan’s father, Rick Bruno, tells ABC 6 News his hope with this legislation is that no family will go through what he did.

The “Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act” was modeled around a law already in place in other states after a 16-year-old from Nashville, Jason Flatt, died by suicide.

The bill would require school districts and the Department of Education to adopt policies on student suicide prevention. It would also require yearly training by any personnel, including teachers, administration, custodians, lunch personnel, substitutes, nurses, coaches and coaching staff, even if volunteers.

It would also require all students beginning in 6th grade and running through 12th grade to go through training every year as well.

The bill would also require districts to have parental notification procedures and to make sure student support staff is engaged with kids.

Representative Terri Cortvriend is the lead sponsor of the bill.

“It’s okay to feel sad and it’s okay to reach out for help. I think that awareness is what we hope will grow,” Rep. Cortvriend said. “I think it’s very timely that we pass this bill because we all know this pandemic has placed an extra stress and burden on everyone’s mental health, but especially on kids.”

She says it’s only a matter of weeks before it reaches Governor Dan McKee’s desk to sign into law.

“Saturday is Nathan’s birthday and he would be 19. In the month Nathan was born, a new law was born, right? We’re just excited this bill is going to pass,” Bruno said.

The non-profit organization Be Great for Nate (BG4N), has trained over 100 young people in suicide awareness. If you’re interested, visit: BG4N.org.

Categories: Newport, News, Providence, Rhode Island