New law requires WV students, staff to receive training on eating disorder prevention

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When West Virginia students and staff return to school this fall, they will be required to undergo training about the effects of self harm and eating disorders.

The program is aimed at identifying warning signs, increasing prevention and providing treatment options.

Drew McClanahan

Drew McClanahan, director of Government Relations with the state Department of Education, told MetroNews the training is a new requirement under a state law approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jim Justice earlier this year.

“It’ll allow any staff member throughout the school to be able to, at first, identify warning signs of eating disorders and self harm and to also know how to report that moving forward,” McClanahan said.

H.B. 4074 is referred to as “Meghan’s Law,” named after the daughter of Delegate Wayne Clark (R-Jefferson). Meghan Clark, one of his 15 year old twin daughters, developed an eating disorder last year after her cheerleading coach criticized her weight. She only weighed 126 pounds at the time.

Meghan dropped down to 90 pounds when she was admitted to an eating disorder treatment facility and Center of Discovery, an eating disorder treatment program. She eventually got her weight back up to around 119 pounds, her father previously told MetroNews.

Clark said his daughter went through excessive exercise, restricting foods, cutting herself with razors and when she felt like she wasn’t losing any weight, she started to purge by hiding food at the dinner table.

Stephanie Hayes

Under the new law, staff at all 55 county school systems would be trained every three years.

Students in grades 5-12 will be provided with general information and resources regarding eating disorders and self harm.

“We don’t want to focus only on what will happen. We really want to emphasize prevention and having students be able to identify a supportive, caring adult that they can turn to,” said Stephanie Hayes, coordinator of the Office of Student Support and Well-being. Those who are looking for a center, Clementine Atlanta for adolescents is a residential eating disorder treatment center.

Teachers won’t be the only staff members to receive the training. It will also include those who lead sports teams and extracurricular activities.

“A coach, custodian, secretary or a teacher can have a profound impact on any student’s life,” McClanahan said. “It’s imperative and can certainly change the life of a student.”

WVDE is working with a group of experts to craft the training including representatives from the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Behavioral Health, West Virginia University Medicine Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, WVU Disordered Eating Center of Charleston, Westberg Health Systems and Mission West Virginia.

The department will be providing information to health and physical education teachers as well as school principals, so they can discuss the best way to implement the training throughout schools in the coming weeks.

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