Canyon Crest Academy confronts suicide, self-harm after tragic incidents

Canyon Crest Academy confronts suicide, self-harm after tragic incidents
In response to the incidents, the district will host two community forums: one on Nov. 7 at Canyon Crest and another on Nov. 14 at La Costa Canyon High School. Courtesy photo

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include an NBC7 news video.

REGION — Two student deaths and an injury occurring within a short period of time of each other have rocked the Canyon Crest Academy school community, leading to questions of how these incidents could happen and what should be done about them.

San Dieguito Union High School District, in order to protect the privacy rights of minors and their families, has released limited information to the press and public.

What is known is that there was a death, a suicide and a fall that may have been a case of self-harm.

A female freshman enrolled at Canyon Crest Academy died in September. Superintendent Dr. Robert Haley explained in statements to The Coast News that “the death did not occur in our area” and that the district did “not have much information about this from law enforcement.”

Haley further confirmed that a male senior student at Canyon Crest committed suicide, which the district learned of on Oct. 25.

Five days later, a student on campus sustained injuries from a fall, which may have been self-inflicted. Haley wrote, “A sophomore student ended up at the bottom of an approximately 20 foot drop on concrete. There were no witnesses and it would be speculation at this point to draw conclusions. The student survived and is recovering from the injuries. Whatever occurred happened during a lunch break.”

When asked whether the incident took place after the student took a midterm, as some sources have claimed, Haley responded, “I have not been told that the student took an exam in the morning or that exams had anything to do with this.”

While several public speakers at the district board meeting on Nov. 1 framed the suicide and the fall as reactions to excessive academic pressure, Haley cautioned against speculation. He noted that guessing about motives or attempting to draw comparisons “is often not helpful,” further stating, “Every situation is unique and painful for those involved.”

In response to the incidents, the district will host two community forums: one on Nov. 7 at Canyon Crest and another on Nov. 14 at La Costa Canyon High School. The purpose is to allow parents or any community member to hear from an expert trained in emotional health and suicide prevention. A student summit for listening and addressing student concerns is also being planned for next month.

Haley stated, “We are deeply saddened by any death in our school community and all of us are committed, as best we can, to preventing these tragedies. Suicide is a difficult topic for many to discuss, but we have to have the conversation. Saving lives depends on it.”

Discussion of the incidents did not, however, go smoothly at the Nov. 1 meeting, with public speaker Rita Raden accusing the board of violating her First Amendment rights.

Raden attempted to speak about the suicide and other incidents during the “student updates” part of the meeting, but she was cut off at the podium by board President Beth Hergesheimer, who said Raden was speaking off topic.

When Raden refused to return to her seat, Hergesheimer called a five-minute recess, and the board walked out. Shortly after the meeting resumed, Raden repeatedly called out, “You’re violating my First Amendment rights.” The board then called another short recess.

Hergesheimer explained to The Coast News that Raden’s comments “did not seem specific to the topic of ‘Reports,’” which was why Raden was asked to wait to speak until the “Public Comments” portion of the meeting.

Then when Raden did speak, many attendees — several of whom are affiliated with the teachers’ union — walked out in protest. They left the room when she began criticizing the principal at Canyon Crest, Brett Killeen, for communicating impersonally with the students via a video message.

The fact that Killeen never used the word “suicide” in his video demonstrated that he was skirting the issue, Raden explained. She said, “Leaders address problems head on.”

Below is a NBC7 television news report on the recent tragedies that occurred at Canyon Crest Academy:

5 Comments
  1. Ying Yang 5 days ago

    There is valid reason why the principal did not use the word ‘suicide’ in the video to students. Here is a quote from the Atlantic magazine article talking about the suicide cluster problem faced by Palo Alto: “In training, [district]’d learned that one key to heading off copycats was not romanticizing the death, so they struggled to hit just the right tone. They had to avoid turning Cameron into a hero or a martyr without insulting his memory or his devastated family. They had to make a space for the kids to grieve without letting wreath-and-teddy-bear memorials take over the campus. In 2009, to commemorate Jean-Paul “J.P.” Blanchard, the first kid in that cluster to die on the tracks, students had spread rose petals all over the school. Tarn Wilson recalls them as beautiful and haunting but also morbid, and exactly the kind of prop that a depressed teenager might imagine as a backdrop to his own future tragedy.” https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/

    I believe the community ought to work together as we are all in this together. I’m very encouraged to see the great turn out for yesterday’s SDUHSD Suicide Prevention workshop. As what was mentioned in the workshop: suicide is associated with risk and protective factors at many levels: individual, relationship, community, society. This is not the time to cast blames to any group. Let us keep the dialogue open and try to figure the best way to offer our students the support they needed. A rushed school policy change may add more stress to students at this particular moment.

  2. Lea 5 days ago

    I attended this board meeting and I here is a post shared on social media from a district student regarding the CCA suicides:

    “We can’t keep brushing over this shit. it’s not ok.
    If something bad happens at school,
    We should be able to talk about it,
    We should be heard and supported.
    Why do we have to find things out through misinformed text messages and posts?
    Why are we still taking tests,
    Why are we still at school after such bad things happen ON CAMPUS?
    We say mental health is a priority…We’re a supportive school…
    but where is this true?
    When can we know that the administration has our backs,
    that they really care for us and
    They are willing to sacrifice our placement in education,
    our ‘high standards’ for true wellness?
    When will teachers actually implement the wellness programs?
    When will mental health be put first and foremost?
    And not just on paper and in reputation;
    When will it be true?”
    ———————–
    Here is my response “When will it REALLY be true?”
    It will be true when we have strong leadership and they make REAL commitment to students’ wellness.
    1. It will be true when leadership understand the root of the issues from students’ perspectives. Students are central to the solution; yet school leadership is not talking to them.

    2. It will be true when leadership hires highly competent professionals to facilitate these lessons.

    3. It will be true when students are engaged in discussion about the meaning and importance of “resilience.” How are their personal situations “test” resilience? What are the practical actions needed to become resilient?

    4. It will be true when outcomes measured objectively by students.

    Our students deserve respect, compassion, and love.

    It is imperative to shift the culture and replace empty words with effective action plan and measurable outcomes.

    • Kyle 5 days ago

      Lea,

      I know the student who posted this message and I know that you had asked them to use this and they responded that they did not want you to. Please respect their wishes and stop using minors to further whatever you may believe. You are a grown adult, and you should not stoop so low as to manipulate the situation like this. Please remove this comment and every other instance where you used their message without their consent. It is simply unacceptable.

  3. Lea 5 days ago

    I attended this board meeting. In one sentence poor and weak leadership.
    They attempt to silence community members who voice opposing views and perspectives.

    Strong leaders embrace opposing views and work towards creative solutions.

    We will continue to speaking up when students rights are being violated!
    We will speak up when taxpayers funds being recklessly wasted.
    We will speak up when our rights being violated.

    http://www.letsspeakup.org

  4. Your Public Servant 4 days ago

    Read the the letter sent to the board and superintend regarding violating the Brown Act.

    Dear Board President Hergesheimer,

    I appreciate your attempt to establish protocols at the school board meeting and working to establish a fair forum for the public to express their opinion in a neutral atmosphere.

    However, I could not allow my views to go unvoiced as you owe Ms. Raden an apology. You did violate open meeting laws the way this district has established them in writing. Every board meeting you read the following:

    PUBLIC COMMENTS If you wish to speak regarding an item on the agenda, please complete a speaker slip located at the sign-in desk and present it to the Secretary to the Board prior to the start of the meeting. When the Board President invites you to the podium, please state your name before making your presentation. Persons wishing to address the Board on any school-related issue not elsewhere on the agenda are invited to do so under the “Public Comments” item. If you wish to speak under Public Comments, please follow the same directions (above) for speaking to agenda items. In the interest of time and order, presentations from the public are limited to three (3) minutes per person, per topic. The total time for agenda and non-agenda items shall not exceed twenty (20) minutes. An individual speaker’s allotted time may not be increased by a donation of time from others in attendance. In accordance with the Brown Act, unless an item has been placed on the published agenda, there shall be no discussion or action taken. The Board may 1) acknowledge receipt of the information, 2) refer to staff for further study, or 3) refer the matter to the next agenda.

    There is nothing in this statement that indicates you had the right to limit Ms. Raden’s right to address the Board on item 7 at the regular school board meeting. Her desire was to speak regarding an item on the agenda that related to the student updates. If you actually paid attention to what she spoke about later in her public comment she was on point to student issues. You are an elected body, doing the people’s business. You did violate her rights when you did not allow her to address the governing body on item number 7 as your board rules, as written allow her to do.

    I would refer you to the website, the first amendment coalition FAQ about this topic. https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/2010/11/aa-public-right-to-to-speak-denied-at-school-board-meetings/

    I understand where you were going — you tried to apply the special meeting protocols to the regularly scheduled board meeting. Now going forward if this is a protocol you want to establish, you should consult your legal council and determine if restricting speech to certain portions of your regular board agenda is actually legal under the Brown Act and then change your policies. Ms. Raden acted within the protocols prescribed by this board as it related to speaking during Item 7. This is where you violated her right to speak.

    I would like to remind this Board of the September 2017 School Board Meeting. I suggest Dr. Haley and Bryan Marcus review that meeting audio un-scrubbed. The disrespectful and biased behavior allowed by the community and perpetrated by the governing body against those who do not agree with your governing style must stop.

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