No Motives In Suicides Of 4 RC Students Determined

If school officials and Rancho Cucamonga community authorities have uncovered any links in the rash of suicides that took the lives of four students in the first two weeks of the school year last month, they are not disclosing them.
Between August 6 and August 19 three high school attendees and one grade school student at Rancho Cucamonga schools fordid themselves, all by hanging. None of them attended the same school.
On August 6, a ten-year-old student at Victoria Grove Elementary school in the Alta Loma School District hung himself in his family’s home in the 900 block of Taupe Street. Efforts by family members and then responding deputies and paramedics to revive him failed.
On an undisclosed date and location, a 15-year-old boy hung himself.
The evening of August 13, a 15-year-old girl, hung herself at her home in the 12300 block of Sweetgum Drive. Paramedics with the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department responded, to no avail.
On August 19, a 16-year-old girl whose family resided in the 8900 block of Tanglewood Court committed suicide in the same manner as the others.
Chaffey Joint Union High School District Superintendent Mathew Holton told the Sentinel “The Chaffey District is grieving the loss of three students to suicide since the start of the school year on August 8th.”
In an email sent to families in the district on August 21 Holton said the district has augmented its existing  counseling teams consisting of counselors, psychologists, nurses, health assistants, psychologist interns, and marriage and family counselors “with an additional psychotherapist and 10 further marriage and family therapists for a total of 18 marriage and family therapists for support.” Holton also announced in the email the “formation of a mental health task force comprised of our mental health professionals from every site and the community, who meet regularly to work to expand and improve the services we provide. We are currently forming an expanded community task force to work together to meet mental health needs, improve preventative measures, and increase wellness.” The district will also, Holton said, create “partnerships with outside agencies, such as the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, private counseling services, mental health educators, and the faith-based community.”
Holton said, “There is no greater tragedy than the death of a young person, and since the start of the school year, our Chaffey District community has been shaken by the loss of three students to suicide. The three deaths were unrelated and involved students enrolled at three of our campuses – Rancho Cucamonga, Etiwanda, and Alta Loma. One of the students had previously attended Los Osos. Our district and site teams have been in close communication with their families and loved ones and offer our deepest sympathies and continued support. We care deeply about our students and have deployed counseling teams of trained therapists at each of our schools to help students and our staff through their grief. As our school communities heal, we are extremely sensitive to the stresses and pressure that young people experience in today’s world, and we have taken a variety of steps to help them navigate difficult situations.”
Alta Loma School District Superintendent James Moore said administrators, teachers and teachers in the district were “deeply saddened at the loss of one of our students.”
Law enforcement authorities have given indication they were unable to link any of the suicides with one another or unearth any motives. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department investigated three of the deaths. The deceased student who attended Etiwanda High School lived outside the City of Rancho Cucamonga, across the city limits in Fontana, where city officials in the 1980s annexed property that was in Rancho Cucamonga’s sphere of influence but which remained within the Chaffey High School District’s boundaries. Thus, that death was investigated by the Fontana Police Department. According to the sheriff’s department, “no connection” between any of the deaths has been identified.
Potential causal factors haves been discussed in the aftermath of the deaths.
There is concern among some that the push within local school districts to initiate the school year at earlier and earlier dates is taking a psychological toll on children and young adults of high school age. Two generations ago, the school year in virtually all schools in California did not start until the first or second week of September, with most schools initiating class time after the Labor Day holiday. Beginning in the late 1980s and accelerating in the 1990s, school districts have moved toward beginning school in August. Many districts now initiate the school year the first week of August.
Another factor in increased teenage suicide, according to some mental health experts, is the so-called “suicide imitation syndrome” or “suicide contagion,” the uptick in suicide rates that comes in the aftermath of a well-publicized suicide, in most cases involving a celebrity. Moreover, there is concern that any references or depictions of suicide in the media or in artistic form are likely to trigger a spate of suicides. This phenomenon was noted as early as the 18th Century following the publishing of a novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers [The suffering of Young Werther] in which the young protagonist commits suicide. Scores of young men around Germany, often dressed in the same flamboyant clothing that Goethe described Werther as wearing and using pistols similar to the one Werther used in killing himself in the fictional account, killed themselves. These occurrences are referred to as copycat suicides.
In 2017, Netflix began airing TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY, Brian Yorkey’s screen adaptation of Jay Asher’s 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why. In Asher’s original young adult novel the story revolves around Hannah Baker, a young high school student who descends into despair after she is subjected to betrayal and bullying, punctuated by her suicide. She lays out thirteen reasons why she decided to take her life in an audio diary which she mails to her friend, Clay Jensen, and which he receives after her death. The television drama differs slightly from the novel in that the viewers are oriented to the events of the last year of Hannah’s life through Clay Jensen’s listening to the tapes.
While the intention of both the novel and the screen adaptation appears to be to offer a deep examination of the implication of bullying and mistreatment that can lead to suicide, there is concern that some suffering from the same afflictions Hannah is experiencing in the story could, might, may and have interpreted Asher’s/Yorkey’s rendering as the glorification of suicide and the celebration of killing oneself as a solution to a difficult situation.
So volatile is the subject of suicide that even the mere mention of it, the discussion of it, the reporting of it, such as this article, carries with it the danger that doing so will influence others to attempt it or carry it out.
In the immediate aftermath of the deaths within the Chaffey High School District, Holton encouraged “candid” discussion about the issue of suicide between parents and their children. This week, however, when the Sentinel broached the subject of the early initiation of the school year as a potential causal factor in the rash of suicides, Holton derided the inquiry and any journalistic engagement on the matter as improper, irresponsible and lacking in professionalism.
“This has been a difficult and emotional time for the family and friends of the students involved, as well as the entire Chaffey District community. The loss of any child under any circumstances is an unimaginable tragedy — and it would be irresponsible and insensitive to engage in baseless speculation,” Holton said.
Mark Gutglueck

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