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: