SDA Copes with Student’s Death this Week

By Elise Gout, Editor in Chief/Features Editor

Students and staff have been coping with the loss of a freshman student this week.

In first period on Wednesday morning, teachers informed classes of the student’s suicide and of the help available throughout the week. The conference center was open for students to have a quiet place to express their feelings and grieve in a more private setting.

“We wanted them to be able to be with other kids who are sharing some of those same emotions,” said Assistant Principal Jeanne Jones.
School psychologist Vangie Akridge was joined by two psychologists from Torrey Pines High School to offer aid, and counselors and PALs were also available to assist students throughout the day.

On Tuesday, the teachers of the student were brought in and informed. Afterwards, the administration notified the parents of those who were particularly close to the student. “Some of those very close friends had their parents come into school with them [on Wednesday] so that if the student felt like they could go to class, they went to class. If they felt like they needed to go home, then Mom and Dad were there.”

Senior Out had been scheduled to start last Wednesday and was postponed until Tuesday, March 10, and will conclude March 20.

Jones said that counselors and PALs are still available at any time should students feel the need to talk. When looking to the future, the administration is considering several things in terms of support. “First of all, we recognize that right now all of us are very much in a raw state, feeling a lot of shock and disbelief. At this time, we don’t know what additional support will look like because we are learning what’s available,” said Jones. They are presently working with several LGBTQ and transgender groups as well as with Suicide Prevention of California. “[The support will be] determined as things progress to assess where the real need is.”

Social media spread the news of the loss quickly, and on websites like Facebook many students made posts about the situation. “I think like anything else, social media is a tool,” said Jones. “And you can use a tool purposefully and positively, and you can use a tool for destruction. It can offer support and encouragement to others going through grief and loss or their own depression, or it can spread false rumor, gossip, and blame without fact. And that for me is the very sad part of all of this.”

At this time, Jones said the focus is to reestablish the values of San Dieguito Academy: “support for each other, commitment to each other, [and] love for each other.”

“We are not a religious institution, we are not a psychological institution, we are a school,” she said. “Our job is to teach students. So we will focus on teaching them, offering support and resources to them, encouraging each one of them to know and understand themselves, and to reach out if they need help. That, for us, is key.”

Story written with contribution by Elise Echeverria