Third Student Suicide In Four Months At Oro Grande Charter School

(May 22) There has been a rash of suicides among students enrolled at Riverside Preparatory School  in the Oro Grande School District.
The school is an accelerated learning facility, with a strong emphasis on academics. Three students at the school have taken their own lives since February. After the death of the second student in February, there was widespread speculation about the cause, including concerns that the academic rigors and demands on the school’s students had resulted in morbid depression among some members of the student body.
The latest death occurred sometime late on May 21. Sheriff’s deputies in the early morning of May 21 responding to a call found the body of a 13-year-old male who had apparently committed suicide. Later on May 22, it was confirmed that he was a student at Riverside Preparatory School. The identity of the deceased had not been released by press time.
His death follows that of 15-year-old Ashley Payton, of Victorville in early February, and that of  Christopher Shutter, 16, later that month.
Speculation of a suicide pact among some of the school’s students ensued, triggering a sheriff’s department investigation in which cell phones belonging to several students were confiscated by detectives, who then evaluated the call history of the students, including determining if they had contact with the deceased, as well as evaluating the contents of text messages that had been sent over the devices.
Subsequently, public statements by Payton and Shutter’s parents indicated that Payton’s motivation likely stemmed from bullying she was being subjected to by her peers and that Shutter’s action was precipitated by grief he was experiencing.
Riverside Prep is a publicly funded charter school of Oro Grande School District featuring accelerated learning programs for all grade levels. Any student living within the state of California is eligible to attend Riverside Prep, but most of its students live within the communities of Oro Grande, Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia and Adelanto.  Enrollment is done by means of a lottery of applicants, with far more applicants than classroom seats available.
Riverside Prep entails elementary, middle school and a high school. The elementary school is located on 3rd Street in Oro Grande and is comprised of six classrooms per grade level. The middle school is located on a campus off the National Trails Highway about three blocks away from the elementary school. The High School is adjacent to the middle school.
There has also been speculation that the sheer academic intensity of the school may have been a contributory factor in the deaths.
According to the school’s website, “Our school is committed to the growth and positive development of students through an experimental learning approach that strives to engage the student, enlighten the mind and empower the future. We want our students to be the ‘Best’ without reservation or qualified restrictions. We seek to promote a diverse, challenging and supportive environment of firmly grounded, tolerant, respectful, accountable and academically motivated students.”
A sense of how intensified the instruction regimen at the school is can be gleaned from the school’s mission and vision statement, also posted on the website, which is “Good enough is not good enough; Excellence is our standard! Our mission is to empower every student to become a successful learner.”

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