BERNARDS TWP., NJ - A high school sophomore who lives in Basking Ridge - but doesn't attend Ridge High School - nevertheless attended this month's first Board of Education with a request that the school take steps to prioritize counseling for student mental health issues, particularly thoughts of suicide.
The student, who gave her name as Angelica, urged the board at its Jan. 3 meeting to take some simple steps that she said would not cost much money, but "could make the biggest difference to a student."
"As you guys know, we lost two lives within less than a year," the softspoken student said during the public portion of the meeting. She characterized the problem as one that is especially facing Ridge High School's community.
The student urged the board to take the simple steps of putting up information throughout Ridge on suicide prevention hotlines, text or chat rooms, and similar resources for students who might have any thoughts of suicide.
Students who request counseling, especially if they are feeling suicidal, should be given priority if they seek help, she said during her requests before the board.
She said she feels that not enough has been done in the community to assure students that "sometimes it's okay not to feel okay...and not be perfect all the time."
'Should be taken a lot more seriously'
"I feel like it's something that should be taken a lot more seriously," she said during her remarks.
Additionally, the student said she was hoping that Ridge High School would set aside a moment of silence and would commemorate the anniversary of the passing of the Ridge student who had been her friend.
"We are always very appreciative when students take the time to attend our meeting, especially, and share their thoughts with us," Bernards Board President Beverly Cwerner told the student.
Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said school officials had given much consideration on the issues brought up by the student, and would take her thoughts into consideration going forward.
This week, Markarian added in response to a question by email that the school district has nothing specifically planned for suicide prevention as of this time. However, he said that school officials are looking at the issue as part of one of the school board's goals for this year.