CENTRAL VALLEY -The Monroe-Woodbury School District is continuing its suicide prevention and awareness efforts with the scheduling of six community forums designed to offer the community smaller settings to discuss recent events and to get better acquainted on issues tied into suicide. Following the Jan. 27 community informational meeting on sudden child death, District Superintendent Edward Mehrhof wrote to parents this week, providing a synopsis of district activities on this topic and the plans going forward, all under the advice and in consultation with suicidiology experts. High school and middle school students have been meeting in small groups or individually since Jan. 10, with counseling services offered and provided for the students, faculty and staff, particularly those identified as being at-risk. District officials, he wrote, continue to reach out to families who have any questions or concerns. In the five elementary schools, counseling and information has been provided on a case-by-case basis. The Board of Education, wrote Mehrhof, reviewed all intervention activities at a special Jan. 27 meeting, which included presentations by High School Principal David Bernsley and Middle School Principal Elsie Rodriguez. In response to community anger over what Mehrhof wrote as sensationalized coverage by the local cable television station, Mehrhof and School Board President Dr. Michael DiGeronimo met with cable officials to explain “the repetitive TV coverage of this tragedy is sensationalizing the event” and puts others at risk. “Experts have shown that repetitive or prominent news coverage, especially TV coverage of a suicide, tends to promote and maintain preoccupation among the at-risk teenagers,” wrote Mehrhof. “Other students may identify with the deceased student and imitate their behavior.” During last Friday’s teacher in-service program, the K-12 faculty and staff attended a presentation by Kristin Trautman of New York University, an expert in the study of child and adolescent suicide nationwide. Representatives of the Schenectady School District also met with local law enforcement and public officials on Feb. 4 to share the steps they took and the processes they implemented, still in place, to address similar circumstances in their district about two years ago. “Since the tragic events of the past few weeks, our community has truly come together to provide support to one another, to heal, and to try and prevent similar occurrences from taking place in the future,” wrote Mehrhof. “The safety and welfare of our children is our number one priority.” - Nancy Kriz
Update on activities To read School Superintendent Edward Mehrhof’s letter, visit the Monroe-Woodbury School District’s home page at www.mw.12.ny.us. To read School Board President Dr. Michael DiGeronimo’s letter, turn to page 13.