Changes Made At Stillwater Schools After Junior High Student's Suicide

Monday, February 4th 2013, 5:21 pm
By: Craig Day

It was only about four months ago when Stillwater Schools went through the same type of tragedy that Coweta Schools saw Monday morning, when a 15-year-old student committed suicide in a bathroom at the intermediate high school.

In September 2012, a 13-year-old boy shot and killed himself at the junior high school in Stillwater. Since then, the district has been working to prevent something like that happening again.

When Stillwater Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Caine heard about what happened in Coweta, her heart sank.

"My stomach dropped. And it just brought back all the memories that we had experienced, back in September," Caine said.

In September, a 13-year-old Cade Poulos shot and killed himself in a hallway at Stillwater Junior High.

9/26/2012 Related Story: Student Dead After Self-Inflicted Shooting At Stillwater Junior High School

It was the first time in Caine's 34 years in education she'd had to face that kind of tragedy. She said, despite the heartache, it was important to get students back to school, right away.

"I could not think of our students as being at home the next day and not having anyone to talk to or being there to support each other," Caine said.

Since the tragedy, counselors with Payne County Youth Services still visit the school several days each week to work with students and teachers.

The district also now uses a Lifelines program, which trains counselors and administrators on warning signs and potentially life-saving strategies.

"The majority of that program is based on being preventative rather than reactive, after you've had a tragedy," Caine said.

The district is also evaluating budget and staffing needs for next year in the hopes of freeing up more time for counselors to spend with students instead of other duties.

"They're licensed counselors but we've turned them into schedulers and paper pushers," Caine said.

Caine says the district is still evaluating increased security measures like metal detectors.

"Do you invest in metal detectors, knowing that how many doors do you install a metal detector, then you have to hire a staff member to monitor the metal detector? And we're still trying to recover staffing-wise from the recession," Caine said.

It's a tough challenge evaluating and re-evaluating strategy, while still trying to overcome the shock of what happened, and what has now happened again.

2/4/2013 Related Story: Coweta Community Reacts To Freshman Student's Suicide

"It impacts that entire Coweta community. As we know, it's going to impact them for months to come," Caine said.

OSU's counseling department also provides ongoing support for Stillwater schools.

School leaders will make a presentation in August to the Oklahoma School Board Association State conference on what they learned after the tragedy in September.