Other NJ News

Hunterdon Central Student's Death Prompts Call for Change

05010309dc5051dd47c9_moore.jpg
Hunterdon Central High School Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Moore Credits: Curtis Leeds
550bbb4558ecb1cbee1c_reiner.jpg
Raritan Township Committeeman Lou Reiner said 'I was devastated when I heard the news' about Allison Vandal's death. Credits: Curtis Leeds
e3acc89cb03dc70921ee_michele_bernhard.jpg
Hunterdon Central High School special education teacher Michele Bernhard Credits: Curtis Leeds
05010309dc5051dd47c9_moore.jpg

RARITAN TWP., NJ – The Dec. 16 death of 15-year-old Allison Vandal cast a long shadow over the year’s last meeting of the Hunterdon Central High School board.

The meeting included school Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Moore asking the public for a silent moment of reflection.

Moore has characterized Vandals’ death the result of suicide, even as a spokesperson for Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns, III has said the cause of death is undetermined and that the matter remains under investigation.

Sign Up for E-News

The “school community has been dealing with a terrifying and emotionally challenging situation,” Moore told the school board and public Dec. 18. “One of our students has committed suicide.

“We are going to continue, as we have, to share information with our community to help adults recognize signs in their children,” Moore said. “Our counselors here continue to be available to meet to meet with students, and they have met with hundreds already.”

But Michele Bernhard, a Hunterdon Central special education teacher, told school officials that wasn’t enough.

Bernhard  noted that the results of students’ standardized tests are  “reported in great detail throughout the year” to the board.

“Where are the reports about the number of students  visiting counselors and the reason for their visit?” she asked. “Or the reports on the number of students suffering from depression, anxiety, drug abuse and mental illness?

“There’s a cost to having such a high focus on test scores and achievements,” Bernhard said.

In a voice that periodically cracked with emotion, Bernhard noted that many reports show anxiety and depression in teenagers are increasing.

“Ten years ago it was rare to have a student whom I knew had spent time in a facility for suicidal thoughts or actions, or was refusing to go to school because of anxiety,” Bernhard said. “But for the past three years I have had several a year. We have to do more ... we need to shift our focus.  

“Ask any teacher,” Bernhard challenged school officials. “They’ll tell you that a student’s social and emotional needs have to be taken care of first” before academic learning can take place.

“This is what our priority should be, not how many students are sitting for AP exams” or  passing standardized tests, she said.

Moore called the week, “The toughest week of my career.

“As we move forward we have some work to do in terms of understanding what’s become a disastrously elusive things for schools, and not just us,” the superintendent said. “We join a club of schools that has a terrible initiation. We need to talk about wellness among our students. It’s not just suicide prevention, although that needs special attention in the coming days and months.  

“There is so much more to talk about with our students,” Moore said. “This is a constellation of things in which suicide is a very bright star. We are talking about substance abuse, anxiety and depression and all sorts of things that our students contend with, and hear about, and which are in some cases glorified for them.”

Moore added that, “I continue to be amazed at how staff and students here take care of each other.”

Bernhard said the response to Vandal’s death “has to go beyond bringing in more counselors when there’s a traumatic event. We need to investigate why our students are so anxious and depressed.”

Bernhard said she was “thankful that Dr. Moore was able to announce this as a suicide, because it prevents us from sweeping it under the rug. We need to face it.”

“There were many factors that led to her death,” Bernhard said, “not all of which the school was a part of. But the school did play a part in it. It can’t help but play a part because our students are here for so many of their waking hours. What happens here carries to home as much as home carries over to school,” she said.

“We need to make sure this never happens again.”

There are many suicide prevention and information resources that are available to all.  NJ Hopeline offers confidential help every day of the year, around-the-clock, at 1-855-NJ-HOPELINE (654-6735). It also offers a web-based chat resource, and text messaging at njhopeline@ubhc.rutgers.edu.

The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Mental health experts say no one should hesitate to seek help for themselves or anyone that they know. Information about risk factors and how to respond is widely available.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Westfield

Health Authorities Investigating Death of Elizabeth Schoolgirl who had Flu

February 19, 2018

ELIZABETH, NJ — The New Jersey Department of Health is continuing to investigate the cause of the passing of Daniela Genaro who attended Nicholas LaCorte — Peterstown School No. 3 after it was confirmed that the student had been diagnosed with influenza. Officials say, it "presently remains unclear whether or not the virus was the primary contributing factor to the child's ...

Mayor Brindle’s Update

February 15, 2018

The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.

I first want to congratulate Nick Calello and David Went for their promotions to patrol officers in the Westfield Police Department. I’d also like to welcome and congratulate new Patrol Officer Fortunato Riga, who joins the police department this week upon his ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_fadfd1c21bc636c673db_schmidt_john_01_pp

Thu, February 22, 8:30 AM

Hilton Garden Inn, Hamilton , Hamilton

Defending Your Independent Contractor & Wage & ...

Business & Finance Education Law & Justice

Carousel_image_248cea245b872fb9c722_resolve_house

Fri, February 23, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve

Carousel_image_cb76d129f430419a337a_sjhsfishfry

Fri, February 23, 5:00 PM

Catanzaro Dining Hall at Saint Joseph High School, Metuchen

Friday Night Lenten Fish Fry

Food & Drink

Wardlaw+Hartridge Students Earn Scholarship Finalist Standing

February 17, 2018

The National Merit Scholarship Program has determined which of the 16,000 semifinalists named in September 2017 have met all requirements to advance to Finalist standing in the competition. All Finalists will be considered for National Merit Scholarships to be offered in 2018.

Wardlaw+Hartridge seniors Jennifer Guo and Suraj Chandran of Edison received their Finalist certificates from Susan ...

Westfield Police Blotter: DWI Arrest & More

February 15, 2018

February 7, 2018 10:25 p.m.

Officers Natale and Gill arrested Brian Mueller, age 55, of Westfield, NJ for driving while intoxicated pursuant to an accident investigation in the area of Mountain Avenue by Colonial Avenue. Subject was transported to headquarters, processed and released to a sober adult.

 

February 9, 2018 2:21 a.m.

Selena G. Palacios, age 22, of Westfield, NJ was ...

19 Homes Sold Last Week in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford & Mountainside

Nineteen homes sold last week, 2/11/2018-2/18/2018, in Westfield,  Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside and Cranford.*

 www.summitwestfieldhomes.com        www.NJHomeshowcase.com

www.SusanMassa.com

TOWN                  ...

How Tax Reform Impacts You

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act brings a host of changes to tax returns for 2018. Highlighted are just a few of the new rules that may impact many of our clients. Please reach out to us to find out if and how your personal situation is impacted.

For Business:

·       A flat 21% corporate tax rate for C corporations replaces the 15% - 35% graduate rate ...

Sinai or Sanctuary?

 

 

And in the beginning, G‑d was homeless, and so G‑d asked His people to set Him up with some digs. Where does it say that? Well, nowhere, actually. But it does say that G‑d instructed Moses to tell the people, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

Now the question is, was G‑d really homeless? ...

Westfield Public Schools Celebrate High School and Intermediate Music Honors

Westfield High School sophomore Brooke Walden auditioned and was selected to the New Jersey All-State Wind Ensemble and Orchestra for a second straight year.  Brooke was the top scoring piccolo player and ranked third on the flute.  She will perform in February with the Wind Ensemble and in November with the Orchestra.

Walden also was among 12 WHS musicians to perform in January with ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

February 13, 2018

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating, leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The school shooting ...

Love Craft Beer But Hate the Tour? State Assembly Moves to Make it Easier for You to Belly Up to the Bar

Good news is a brew for New Jersey craft beer advocates. In February 2018, the New Jersey Assembly’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee paved the way for the introduction of Bill A2196, which would remove a current licensing rule requiring breweries and distilleries to provide a tour of their facilities before serving alcoholic beverages to consumers. Currently, breweries holding a ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

Cat Found in Westfield

UPDATE: Reunited with family!

ORIGINAL POST: Cat found in Golf Edge area of Westfield. Call 908-913-0509.

Imagine a Chatham Toboggan Ride from the Top of Fairmount Avenue to Main Street

Did you know….
there was a time when Chatham kids could ice skate from downtown Chatham all the way to Florham Park? And that a toboggan ride could last from the top of Fairmount Avenue down to Main Street and beyond?

Those were the days!

This was back in the early to mid-1900s. The Passaic River meandered through grassy meadows and woods on the north side of Chatham. The marshy ...

Obituaries

Kathleen Marie Christian (nee Helmstetter), age 73 of Surf City, NJ, passed away peacefully at home ...
Read more

East Brunswick Schools Add Armed Officers to Security

February 20, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ — At a meeting Thursday night, the East Brunswick Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to engage the East Brunswick Police department to place armed police officers at each school building in the district throughout the entire school day. In a report released by superintendent Victor Valeski yesterday, township officials asserted that the move would ...