The boy’s face was sullen as he tried — and failed — to concentrate on homework in his DeKalb County living room. Tears started to roll when his mom asked if he was OK. She tried to pick him up to hug his neck, but his body went limp, deflated.
The mother is struggling to help the 8-year-old and understand after he attempted suicide in class at Peachcrest Elementary on Nov. 30.
The act and how it was handled is being investigated by the DeKalb school district.
“The health and well-being of our students is a top priority,” the district said. “DCSD also utilizes its professional personnel such as counselors and social workers to support students through conversations about positive decision-making, handling stress, and who they can talk to when they have problems. The role of parents is always strongly considered in any decision.”
The mother, whose name is withheld because it could identify her child, believes the act it was related to recent bullying, as well as a talk a guidance counselor gave to the second-grader’s class warning against suicidal threats.
The district said it doesn’t “advise or direct its employees” to discuss suicide with elementary students. The district didn’t deny it happened in this case.
The counselor said in a taped interview with the mom the intent of speaking to the kids was to tell them not to threaten to kill themselves, as several had done in recent days. The mom’s son wasn’t one of the students who’d made such threats. The counselor described the other students’ statements as not serious, something they’d say when they didn’t get their way.
Later that day, the 8-year-old, whose mom said he has never had any psychiatric issues, placed a plastic folder over the drain in the sink and told the teacher he was killing himself, the mother said. He then plunged his head in.
Afterward, the counselor asked the child if the talk about suicidal threats had had anything to do with his attempts, according to the tape. The boy said yes.
The counselor said she had kept her statements general and hadn’t mentioned any particular ways people harm themselves. She said she’d told the kids not to make such statements because it would worry the school and their parents.
The mother believes parents should have been notified before the talk.
She doesn’t think the mere mention of suicide sent her son to the sink, but she worries he could have seen it as a good way to get attention after hearing that it concerns adults.
The child wants attention because he keeps complaining about bullies and can’t get it to stop, the mother said.
Had the child’s attempt worked, he would’ve joined a troubling trend of Georgia youths taking their lives. The numbers have been on the rise in the past few years, though answers as to why have been hard to come by.
By mid-November, 38 kids and teens had taken their own lives this year in Georgia.
Just in the Atlanta area, about 1,500 children and teens attempted suicide last year, the GBI said, citing a query of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
After the boy’s attempt, administrators removed him from the homeroom where it happened and started to change his schedule so he would be more comfortable, but the mom said they still haven’t gotten it worked out so he can avoid the alleged bullies at all times.
The district said it’s in the midst of an investigation to figure out what happened and whether the teacher and others followed protocol. The Division of Family and Children Services is also looking into the incident, according to the mother.
The mom said she’s talking with the boy’s doctor to get him the help he needs.
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