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College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007

Location: Washington, DC

COLLEGE OPPORTUNITY AND AFFORDABILITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - February 07, 2008)


Mr. TIM MURPHY of Pennsylvania. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

And I would also like to thank Chairman Miller and Ranking Member McKeon for assistance in putting a very important part into this bill.

Universities have no trouble finding parents when it comes time to ask for the tuition check. And, sadly, schools can find parents when tragedies occur, such as Virginia Tech, when it comes time to call a parent to give them bad news on what happened to their student. But one of the greatest fears parents have is their students' safety while they are at the university or college. And a while ago, when a gunman killed 32 people and wounded others, it was just one of the tragedies that occurs on campus. There are many other stories as well.

In my district in Pennsylvania, Charles and Debi Mahoney lost their son, Chuck, to suicide. And as he suffered from depression, his fraternity brothers, his ex-girlfriend, and college therapist, et cetera, all knew he was in danger and warned the college. But a legal barrier under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, known as FERPA, prevented the school from notifying Chuck's parents, who could have gotten him the help he needed.

Unfortunately, Chuck's story is not unusual. Each day an average of three college students commit suicide. While in college, 11 percent of men and 9 percent of women consider suicide. While they may not all act on their thoughts, we need to ensure schools are able to contact parents to get them the help they need not only for the safety of the child but also of others on campus.

Parents may be in the best position to help students suffering from significant mental illness by providing emotional support, medical history, coordinating care with various mental health and medical professionals, and long-term follow-up. Parents will be around long after the school is gone.

Today we are breaking down the legal barrier preventing schools from communicating with parents. Section 865 of the bill before us today is modeled after the Mental Health Security for America's Families in Education Act, H.R. 2220, which I authored. It will prevent future campus tragedies by requiring the Secretary of Education to clarify FERPA so schools can contact parents when a student is at risk of suicide, homicide, or physical assault. It will also protect schools acting in good faith from liability.

This is a good bill that will make college campuses safer. It will give families peace of mind.


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