Schools Superintendent Addresses Parents Regarding Recent Deaths

March 28, 2014 at 5:25 PM

MILLBURN, NJ - Superintendent of Schools James A. Crisfield sent the following letter to parents of children in the school district in the wake of three tragic deaths of current and former students.

Dear Parents/Guardians:

It has been an incredibly difficult last few weeks as all of us in the school community struggle to come to grips with the tragic loss of three wonderful students. Whether recently graduated from MHS or currently enrolled at MHS, all these students are part of our family and the sadness we feel right now is impossible to put into words.

We consider the safety and well being of our students to be a top priority. To that end, we will continue to work with all of you at home to form an effective partnership that protects and nurtures the children under our joint care. We have had many highly trained professionals into the district recently to supplement our existing staff as we seek to provide whatever support needed. Here are the key elements of the message they have shared when it comes to what we adults can do to help keep our students safe:

Different people grieve in different ways. Just “being there” for your child, listening and being honest in your answers, is sometimes all you can do, but doing “just” that almost always makes a huge difference.
Keep a close eye on your child for warning signs that they may be experiencing some sort of emotional or mental health trauma. Warning signs include such things as sudden changes in eating or sleeping habits, academic struggles, etc. See the below links for more information on signs and what you can do if you notice them.
Being respectful of family privacy is a primary consideration. The sudden loss of a family member is traumatic beyond belief and we need to respect the fact that these families are going through a very rough time right now.
We need to get the word out regarding resources that students (and parents) can access that involve highly trained professionals and that are 100% confidential. These range from student-friendly, pre-trauma “help lines” to more formal, post-trauma grief counseling centers. Whatever the need, there are resources out there to help!
Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of links for further information. We will continue to respect family privacy and not address the real or speculative cause of these tragic deaths, but to the extent suicide is in the public discourse now, it is important to provide informational links on that highly complex topic as well.

In closing, I would like to emphasize three key points. First, I cannot say enough about how the district staff has responded to these tragic losses. While grieving themselves, they selflessly put their students first and responded in ways that should make us all proud. Second, your students are amazing. I have seen them provide support to each other that makes it obvious they care about others and are not afraid to show it. And lastly, I just want to say that we are all in this together. Sometimes it’s easy to feel isolated and frustrated when trying to understand tragedies like these, so now is the time to come together and reinforce the things that make this community great.

James A. Crisfield
James A. Crisfield, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
(973) 376-3600 (X151)

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