John Raby Published

W.Va. Bill: Schools Must Train On Eating Disorders, Self-Harm

Wayne Clark.jpg

Legislation crafted after the horrific experience of a lawmaker’s daughter would require West Virginia public schools to provide training to students and teachers about eating disorders and self-harm.

Dubbed Meghan’s Law, the bill cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday upon passage in the state Senate. It had unanimously passed the House of Delegates.

The lead sponsor, Jefferson County Republican Del. Wayne Clark, said in prepared remarks during House deliberations two weeks ago that one of his twin teenage daughters had an eating disorder triggered by a cheerleading coach who said she was “too fat to be a flyer.”

A flyer is a cheerleader who performs from the top of a formation and gets tossed by others during stunts.

According to Clark, his daughter was “not fat in the least.”

The girl exercised. But when the weight didn’t come off, she sought help from the internet and social media sites.

She lost more than 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) and her organs were shutting down because she hid food in napkins, vomited after eating, restricting her food intake while her exercising went into overdrive, according to Clark. Last September she was taken to an eating disorder treatment facility, where her resting heart rate was just 20 beats per minute.

The disorder “took control of our family and our lives. Our daughter was determined to kill herself all over the belief of the image that she looked better emaciated,” according to Clark’s speech, which was read by another delegate because he was too emotional to deliver it.

Clark said the situation could have been dealt with sooner had coaches, teachers and counselors been better trained.

Under the bill, middle and high school students would undergo training every year on the warning signs, prevention and treatment of self-harm and eating disorders. Educators would be trained every three years.

The state Board of Education would be required to establish training guidelines in consultation with the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities.

“What we did not know then was this was going to be the best thing as parents that we had ever done,” Clark said.

In addition to his daughter, Clark is dealing with his wife’s recent multiple sclerosis diagnosis and currently is on leave from the Legislature. He posted the Senate’s 33-1 roll call on his Facebook page shortly after its passage.