Columbia Co. school system revisiting policies after 2 students commit suicide

News 12 First at Five / Monday, Feb. 4, 2013

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- In just the span of two weeks, two Columbia County students have taken their own lives.

The untimely deaths are causing school leaders to take another look at how they talk to students about the tough subject.

Columbia County Superintendent Charles Nagle says, "To have students who for whatever reason take their own lives ... it sends up so many red flags as to who should've asked the next question."

Red flags the Columbia County School System is investigating after two middle schoolers committed suicide in the span of just a couple of weeks.

One of those students was Grovetown Middle School student Jerad Meriweather.

Principal Tom Smallwood of Grovetown Middle says it's been a tough couple of weeks.

"I think everybody is trying to regain a sense of normalcy in a very abnormal situation," Smallwood said.

"Everybody's trying to come to terms with the situation, trying to understand, you know, what they can do differently now," he said.

It's a touchy subject to approach with impressionable students, which is why Superintendent Charles Nagle says they don't talk about suicide in the classroom.

"We do not have classes talking about suicide, at no point do we want to glamorize suicide," he explained.

Nagle says it's dangerous because some students could see it as a way to get the attention they so desperately want.

"They don't realize the finality of suicide, they're looking at this as a way that I can speak out and they can see I need attention," he said.

But after Meriweather's untimely death, followed just days later by the suicide of a middle schooler at Harlem Middle, the school board is taking a closer look at their policies.

"We are reevaluating that. We're looking at what we have in place. This has brought it to our attention," Nagle said.

Smallwood says knowledge is a step in the right direction.

"I really want to push for our school and our community to do more suicide prevention and see if we can get a little bit better at identifying the situation before it occurs," he said.

The superintendent says even though they do not teach about suicide awareness, teachers and counselors are taught to look for signs. Any time a child says they may hurt themselves, he says they take it very seriously and immediately get that child help.

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