Letters to the Editor

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SUICIDE: Training teachers could help

Letter by Savannah M. Van Eycke, Tacoma on April 16, 2012 at 11:58 am with 14 Comments »
April 16, 2012 1:52 pm

I was saddened when I heard about the death of Daffodil princess and Chief Leschi student Alexandria Tyler Cole. I never knew her personally, but Chief Leschi and our school have competed in sports together for as long as I can remember.

When the administration shared with our students the news of her death, the students at my high school were moved with compassion and prayed for Alexandria and her family, and we will continue to pray for them during this time.

I agree with the law being passed in Alaska requiring that teachers and staff be trained to recognize signs of suicide and know ways to prevent it. Unfortunately, suicidal behavior can be difficult to pinpoint as some teens may appear to “have it all together.” But the more we spread awareness, the better chance we have of stopping these teens from seeing death as the only option.

I applaud Alaska for adoption of this law, and I prod Washington state to jump on the bandwagon as well. We owe it to the countless kids out there who feel like no one notices or even cares.

Leave a comment Comments → 14
  1. itwasntmethistime says:

    You know what? After a teacher has been trained to be surrogate parent, social worker, and counselor for every kid in his/her class, he/she doesn’t have any time left to teach. Quit dumping more of the responsibility for RAISING children on teachers. Let the teachers teach academics, and transfer the responsibility for RAISING children back to the parents, where it belongs.

    According to everything I’ve read, Miss Cole did not display any of the signs on anybody’s suicide prevention watch-list. Don’t put it on the teachers to be responsible for reading a kid’s mind. Let the teachers teach.

  2. Just how much are those Teachers going to be paid for taking the required training in an area not directly related to their primary duties?

    None? I thought so.

  3. cclngthr says:

    However, teachers should be able to recognize certain behaviors so they can inform parents of it. You talk about parents being responsible to raise the kid, but there are issues that other people often see before the parents do; or want to.

    Teachers already are mandated reporters for child abuse, for good reason. Along these lines are child suicide issues which we need to get a handle on.

  4. igotdabombfool says:

    Of course, that would actually require teachers to talk to parents as well.

  5. alindasue says:


    Students are in school six hours per day. The schools often see teens at least as long on week days as parents do. Add to that the fact that teens will act differently away from home than they do at home and I’m sure you can see the value of having two sets of eyes looking out for our children.

    Instructing teachers to watch for warning signs of suicide wouldn’t take any longer than instructing teachers to recognize the signs of abuse, which cclngthr pointed out is already happening.

  6. cclngthr says:


    The requirement that teachers look for child abuse has been in force for many years now. I remember I had to obtain the training on child abuse and neglect in order to get my certificate.

    Along these lines, suicide among children is also apparent when they are abused. Suicide also is apparent when kids are bullied as well; which we also are supposed to have ongoing training on.

  7. How about just hiring more counselors instead of having ONE counselor for THREE schools?

  8. itwasntmethistime says:

    alindasue — Most parents have just a few kids and they’ve lived with them since birth. Most teachers have at least one hundred kids in any given term. I get that a typical kid spends just as many waking hours in school as out of school, but they don’t get much, if any, one-on-one time with any one adult at school.

    The “school” itself doesn’t see children, it’s the teachers who see children and none of the teachers see the same kid for more than one hour, so really, the parents still have the best shot at spending more time with their own kid than any other adult does.

    The teachers I know already do report signs of suicide, just like they already report signs of abuse. You’d have to have been living under a rock if you work with young people and don’t know the classic signs of a kid in trouble.

  9. itwasntmethistime,

    All teachers do not see kids for one hour a day. Elementary teachers see kids all day.. Middle/high school teachers DO talk to each other about kids and what the kid does within each class. I know because I’ve had many conversations with teachers about particular kids, both privately and during regularly scheduled meetings between teachers, which occur more often than you think.

    The “classic” signs of abuse is not as easily seen because each kid reacts differently toward it, and can be very good at hiding it. Some kids internalize and are very good at hiding their issues; but it takes a TRAINED eye to see that. This is very important when other teachers/school staff members are the abuser; which I have had to deal with in several situations, which each kid responded completely differently. This is apparent with the Jennifer Rice case, where she was sexually abusing the boy before we even heard about it. Teachers/administrators did not “notice” the sexual abuse until after she took the kid to eastern WA. This was at least 3-4 months after she was placed on leave; and all the district had at the time was a case of inappropriate interaction.

  10. itwasntmethistime says:

    Geez, cc, don’t be so obtuse. We’re not facing an epidemic of elementary school kids commiting suicide. That elementary teachers spend the whole day with the same kids has nothing to do with this discussion.

    And you can drop the paranoia while you’re at it. You make it sound like the Jennifer Rice case was business as usual.

  11. itwasntmethistime,
    It often begins at the elementary level, then gets worse as they get older.

    You seem to think it ONLY is the parents, and teachers should be ignorant to the issue. You are showing your ignorance there.

    The Rice case started off as most pedophilia, and it is the usual issues that schools have to watch for, from the very beginning to the end. I also know of many other cases as well where such abuse has caused children harm, including those who commit suicide or be killed. Read about it all the time. Read one this yesterday where a teacher slammed a young boy with Downs Syndrome on the floor which resulted in his death. Another case I have read about is a facility where people with autism attend use shock therepy to “cure” the person of the disorder.

    Ever see the movie Bully? In that film, Tyler Long is bullied to the point where he commits suicide. He, a real person, has Aspergers Syndrome; something that is not mentioned in the film.

  12. Jr. High and Sr. High teachers see a kid for 55 minutes a day in a classroom of 30-35 (45 for pe classes). Unless a kid stands up and says, “I’m killing myself”, I don’t think they will see the signs.

  13. I know of a college freshman who left a suicide note “ask my English Composition teacher why” – all those essays pretty much laid it out.

  14. itwasntmethistime says:

    Show me a suicidal elementary school kid and I’ll show you a kid who has a severe clinical mental illness. Even “troubled” elementary school kids who show signs of depression usually do so because of something happening in their home. So again, it’s back to the PARENTS.

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