The death of a local student highlights mental health and bullying at school – again. | Local

South Williamsport, Pennsylvania – This is the second time in two years that the South Williamsport area school district has to share heartbreaking news of the death of a student in the district.

Jose Orozco, Jr. died on Sunday, November 28, apparently of a self-inflicted injury. According to Lycoming County Coroner Charles Kiessling, the coroner’s office investigated the suicide of a minor in South Williamsport on Sunday.

SWASD Superintendent Dr Mark Stamm released a letter on Monday to let families in the district know that counselors are in the school to help struggling students with the loss.

Efforts, he said, have been in place since the start of the school year to help students deal with mental health issues. Bullying is a big part of education. “Bullying prevention is the first unit of our mental health program,” Stamm said.

However, Stamm said it was unreasonable to link Orozco’s death to bullying, but instead to focus on assessing students’ social, emotional and mental well-being.

Stamm said a police investigation will determine the circumstances of Orozco’s death. The school is currently focusing on supporting students.

The community’s response might suggest otherwise. Since the news of Orozco’s death, a petition has been launched to raise awareness of bullying issues and has collected more than 2,200 signatures in two days.

In a renewed effort within the district to tackle mental health, a program called Second Step was introduced to Kindergarten to Grade 8 students at the start of the school year. It is designed to address social, emotional and mental health through three assessments each year, Stamm said.

But there is no structured program for high school students.

The district has implemented elements of what Stamm called the “Renaissance program,” but it has been difficult to fully launch due to COVID-19 restrictions, he said.

News of Orozco’s death is harsh on the community, but especially on the family of another South Williamsport student who died on February 24, 2020. Adriana Niven-Whitcraft was only 14 years old, a student at South Williamsport, when she took hers. life. The family alleged that Niven-Whitcraft had been bullied and not enough was done to address it.

“I’m not entirely sure what factors may have contributed to the choice this young man felt he had to make,” said Holly Niven, Adriana’s mother. “I agree it is late for the South Williamsport School District to listen to their students and their community.”

A written communication and voicemail message Tuesday from SWASD encouraged families to be kind and support each other. “Please have conversations with your kids tonight about how their day has gone,” Stamm said.

The district letter highlighted signs of stress among the students, including difficulty sleeping, irritability or changes in appetite, inability to concentrate, isolation, aggression, feelings of guilt, alcohol or drug use, or expressions of death or death thoughts.

“If you have an immediate concern for your child and school staff are unavailable, call the Lycoming County 24/7 Crisis Line at 570-326-7895, or call 911 “, indicates the letter.

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