Letter sent by the Douglas County School District on February 13
Dear Douglas County Parents,
As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority. You may also know, over the past few weeks, we have lost three Douglas County School District students and one former student to suicide. First, I want to say that these are unspeakable tragedies, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of these students. Next, I want to share as much information with you as appropriate and also ask for your help.
DCSD and local law enforcement have been working closely with our most impacted schools and their communities to provide our students and staff with support, information, security, and counseling. It is important for you to know that no matter the incident, our first priority is to support the schools most directly impacted. We work together with many community partners to provide the highest level of support to our school and their community, and when we have accurate and appropriate information to share, we send it out to the community. We understand that it is not always as quickly as some would like to see it.
It is our understanding that there is no link other than geographic proximity between these four tragic deaths. However, as a community we need to be aware that anytime there are multiple deaths in a short time period, there is an increase risk for imitation. Therefore, we are urging our community to be vigilant in monitoring the behavior of family members and friends. We are asking for your help with this. As I am sure you understand, protecting our students requires a strong collaboration between parents, schools and community partners. As Sheriff Weaver often says, "If you see something, say something."
Following are some of the warning signs of suicidal behavior:
Plans are made or attempts to secure the means for suicide
Talking about suicide plans
Scratching, cutting or marking the body
Increased risk-taking behaviors (running away, driving recklessly, etc.)
Alcohol or drug use
Neglect of appearance
Marked personality or behavior change
Persistent boredom, inability to concentrate
Decline of quality of school work
Verbal hints like, “I won’t be here much longer”
Giving away possessions
Becoming suddenly very cheerful after a period of prolonged depression
Feeling like they do not belong or having a perception that they are a burden to others
For more information visit these resources:
– DCSD Student Wellness Website: www.dcsdk12.org/student-wellness
– DCSO YESS Program: www.dcsheriff.net/yess/suicide-prevention/
It is especially important to keep a watchful eye during periods when students might have more time alone. This includes time after school, on weekends, and breaks. Given these recent tragedies, it is important that we keep an eye on anyone exhibiting behaviors you find concerning. We are asking for your help.
If you are concerned about a student's behavior or a specific incident:
Stay with the child until you are sure they are safe.
Report the situation to your school, teacher, counselor, principal or local law enforcement.
Contact the National Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.
If there is an immediate threat to your child or other students, call 911.
DCSD has invested in mental health personnel across our system including, but not limited to psychologists, social workers, and nurses. They, too are available to help. If you prefer to remain anonymous, please use Safe2Tell 877-542-SAFE (7233) or Text-A-Tip www.dcsheriff.net/yess/text-a-tip. These have been proven to be excellent, anonymous communication strategies for students and parents. They have saved lives.
Unfortunately, as you may know, suicide is a national issue. Tragically, there have been a number of other student suicides in the metro area over the past few months. The growing concern regarding this issue has prompted state lawmakers to introduce Senate Bill 88, which would create a Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Finally, DCSD has proactively established a wellness framework that offers a continuum of services from prevention to recovery for our students. The District is also in the process of expanding professional development opportunities for staff and learning opportunities for students designed to increase awareness, build skills, and create further understanding of psychological safety and wellness.
Suicide is a public health issue. However, there is hope. With a strong community, we can prevent it.
We appreciate your partnership in keeping our students safe.
Dr. Elizabeth Fagen
Douglas County Schools