Suicide memorial denied for Stark County parents who lost children

PERRY TWP, Ohio - Parents of six students who took their own lives in the past year would like to see them permanently memorialized.

"I think my biggest fear is that he will be forgotten, its like he never existed and I think I can speak for the other parents that they feel the same way their biggest fear is that their child will not be remembered," said Emmaline Brown whose son Raistlin, 14, was the first to take his life in August 2017.

All six families have planned to privately raise the money needed to have the six names engraved on a pillar at the high school stadium where donors who have contributed $5 thousand already have their family names or the names of loved ones permanently displayed.

But the parents say the district, which owns the stadium, has rejected the request.

"Its just really made me angry and sad its just a mixture of emotions and I'm trying to handle things in an adult manner," said Brown.

In a statement to Fox 8 News, Perry Superintendent Scott Beatty said the district cited research that concludes such memorials may have unintended consequences.

The statement reads, in part:

"....There is a litany of literature from professional learned societies (e.g. National Association of School Psychologists, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, etc.) that provide direction on the memorialization of student suicide. A consensus among these organizations (including myself) report that creating permanent memorials (i.e. statues, monuments, plaques, etc.) are not recommended.”

Dr. McGlothlin stated while such permanent memorials may be helpful to the families of those who died, those who might be going through difficult times may see such memorials as glorifying, highlighting or accentuating suicide.

“It is recommended that memorials are chosen that are temporary, nonrenewable or in the form of a living memorial (such as a monetary donation to preventing student suicide),” said Dr. McGlothlin in his statement. “Especially with so many suicides last year, Perry Local Schools do not want to contribute to anything that would potentially increase suicide.”

The statement continues:

"While the community has faced hardships, Perry Local Schools will move toward positivity and healing together. The district will not forget those they have lost and in doing so will promote 'Speaking Life.' The district would like to remember the students in a way that brings life to current and future students of Perry. As we move forward together, the district continues to evaluate the most appropriate and effective steps to create an environment with the health, safety and well-being of our students as our top priority and all decisions will be made with this at the forefront of our minds.”

Brown, and supporters of the parents in the community believe the memorial can actually focus more attention on the need to address the issues that contribute to teen suicide.

"I in no way think that remembering him is encouraging other students to take the same path. If nothing else remembering him, hopefully, will encourage other students to ask for help, to seek help, instead of taking that path," said Brown.

Parents say the deaths continue to be a sensitive issue within the community and inside the school where students reportedly were posting photographs of the six friends they lost around the high school building on Thursday in response to the news about the rejected memorial.

Brown says she would like to petition the district asking for a change of heart.

But parents also say they have not ruled out still having a memorial off school property.