NORTH LEWISBURG — Triad Middle School will have support staff in place to assist students after closing Monday following the death of a fifth-grade student.
The school was closed Monday after administrators learned an 11-year-old male student had committed suicide Saturday. The boy’s sister is a seventh-grade student there.
Superintendent Craig Meredith said the move allowed professional grief counselors with Consolidated Care to train staff.
“We want to make sure we had our staff as prepared as much as they possibly could be to provide the support (students) needed,” Meredith said.
Parents have raised concerns about bullying since the incident. Meredith said the district has programming in place to address bullying. He acknowledged the boy’s father reported a possible issue on a school bus last week, but said there was no pattern of behavior.
“From what we know right now, we have no evidence that bullying has been a factor,” Meredith said.
Teachers will be prepared to answer questions and counselors will be on hand if students need help throughout the day, Meredith said. Approximately 350 students attend Triad Middle school in grades five through eight.
This is Triad’s first student death in at least a decade, Meredith said. A suicide by a young child is extremely rare. Shelia Hiddleson, Champaign Health District commissioner , said no one under the age of 18 had committed suicide in the county since 2008.
In all, there have been two suicides in Champaign County this year, and neither were teens.
Curtis Gillespie, vice president of Mental Health Services of Clark and Madison Counties, said grief counseling can benefit students. The important thing, he said, is to allow the students to talk and for adults to listen to their questions and concerns. “Kids seem to be suffering things younger all the time,” Gillespie said.
Warning signs are difficult to spot in pre-teens, said Jim Duffee, medical director of The Rocking Horse center in Springfield. Teens often exhibit signs of depression, such as alienation and lack of appetite, but for younger children suicide is a way of acting out because they don’t understand the permanency of death. “With a middle school or an elementary school child, it’s more impulsive and reactionary and it’s very difficult to predict,” Duffee said.
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