July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Bullying not a factor in suicide of Medina Twp. boy, 14

By Kiera Manion-Fischer and Steve Grazier

MEDINA TWP. — The Claggett Middle School community is struggling to cope with the suicide death of a 14-year-old student Tuesday morning.

Medina Schools Superintendent Randy Stepp sent an email to parents in the school district within hours of the report of the boy’s death.

Claggett parents were notified with phone calls.

“Everyone who knows of it are saddened by the news,” he said. “Those who are close to the student — we’re trying to provide them with resources to help through the grieving process.”

The Medina Township boy was found in his bedroom shortly after 6 a.m. by a family member who called police.

Township Police Chief David Arbogast said the boy had had “mental health issues” and recently had returned from Akron Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Neil Grabenstetter, the Medina County coroner, said the boy died of asphyxia from hanging and that the death appeared to be a suicide. He said the final ruling would come in a few weeks after the results of tests.

According to Stepp’s email to parents, counselors were available to students at Claggett until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

A community meeting was held Tuesday night at the school, which enrolls 970 students, to inform parents of how to talk to their children about the issue, as well as the warning signs of suicide.

About 30 people attended the meeting.

Gail Houk, CEO of Alternative Paths, a nonprofit agency that provides suicide intervention, encouraged parents in the audience to ask their children questions and to contact her organization about any concerns.

“We are prepared to take your calls,” she said.

During the meeting, some parents raised questions about social media, which was spreading unsubstantiated stories about the boy, including claims on Facebook that he had been bullied.

Prior to the meeting, in response to a reporter’s question, Stepp said bullying was not an issue.

One parent asked if the school could do more to prevent students from using social media during the school day.

Stepp said the school could not prevent students from accessing social media on their phones but said social media websites are blocked on the school’s computers and wireless network.

Kristine Quallich, district director of educational services, said all students in kindergarten through grade 12 would be educated on Internet safety.

Following the meeting, Claggett Principal T.J. Hellickson reiterated that bullying was not related to the boy’s death.

“We don’t believe that had anything to do with it at this point,” he said.

Hellickson said school officials would continue to communicate with parents.

“We don’t want any child or family to feel unsupported through this process,” he said.

Counselors will be available 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Claggett cafeteria to talk to parents and students.

“If you have an immediate concern about your child’s well being please contact Alternative Paths at 330-725-9195 or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more information please visit: http://www.alternativepaths.org/

Service/Suicide-Warning-Signs,” Stepp wrote in the email.

“Please keep the family and friends of this individual in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” he said.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com. Contact reporter Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or sgrazier@medina-gazette.com.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.