Second Parkland shooting survivor dies in suicide, cops confirm – Miami Herald
After a second Parkland shooting survivor died by suicide in a week’s span, Florida’s emergency chief is calling for the state Legislature to dispatch more mental health resources for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community.
On Saturday night, a Parkland sophomore took his own life, according to Coral Springs police. A week before, a former student whose best friend died in last year’s massacre took her life.
“Now is the time for the Florida Legislature to help,” said Jared Moskowitz, Florida’s emergency management director and a former state representative from Parkland.
“Mental health is a bipartisan issue,” he posted on Twitter.
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He told the Miami Herald that school, county, city and law enforcement officials, as well as mental health specialists, met Sunday afternoon to “discuss what help may be requested of this state.”
Helen Aguirre Ferré, the communications director for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press office, said the governor is aware of the reports of suicides and is monitoring the situation. DeSantis has established relationships with several parents who lost children in the shooting last year, and has had conversations with the families.
“He and the first lady are concerned,” Ferré said.
But the situation is, for now, in the hands of local officials, she said, and there has been no request for the state to intervene.
Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie told the Miami Herald on Sunday that school officials are meeting “to work out the details of what we will provide in the coming weeks, above and beyond what is already being provided.”
Before the state activates emergency resources, local leaders would have to agree they need the help.
Last year, after 17 people were murdered in the Feb. 14 shooting on the Stoneman Douglas campus, the state Legislature passed a gun-control and mental-health bill that restricted some sales of guns and accessories, gave the courts the ability to take guns away from people with mental health issues and set aside money to hire and train school faculty.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones, of West Park, said he would “be the first person to co-sponsor something to deal with mental health in our schools and our communities.”
Amid the new Parkland pain, Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the March For Our Lives, a student-led protest of the country’s gun laws that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Washington and to other marches around the world.
The news of the two suicides comes just as students are out of school this coming week for spring break, worrying some that students may not get the help they need..
Investigators told the Miami Herald that the male student died in “an apparent suicide” on Saturday night. He was in 10th grade and attended Stoneman Douglas last year at the time of the Feb. 14 shooting.
It isn’t known whether his death can be linked to the school shooting, police said. They did not release his name.
The death follows the suicide of a recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduate, Sydney Aiello, who took her life after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office said Aiello died from a gunshot wound.
“How many more kids have to be taken from us as a result of suicide for the government / school district to do anything? Rip 17 + 2,” former Stoneman Douglas student and gun-control activist David Hogg said Sunday on Twitter.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
Ryan Petty, father of Alaina Petty, a 14-year-old freshman who was one of 17 people murdered on Feb. 14. 2018, told the Miami Herald the student who died Saturday also died from a gunshot.
Petty founded a suicide prevention foundation called the Walk Up Foundation after his daughter’s death. He said “the issue of suicide needs to be talked about.”
“This is another tragic example,” Petty said, who has partnered with Columbia University for his Foundation.
Since the Valentine’s Day shooting traumatized an entire student body, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School regularly report to trauma counselors after breaking down in tears. They panic when fire alarms drag on even moments too long. Reports of widespread absences are common.
As spring break starts, faculty at the Parkland school worry that their students may not be receiving the help they need away from campus. They also are concerned that recent changes at the school may be negatively affecting kids.
Grief therapists working with Parkland families are mobilizing on Sunday to figure out the best way to provide help. They also are concerned that students will be off this week.
“I’m afraid there will be more [suicides] to come,” said Greg Pittman, an American History teacher at Stoneman Douglas. “I’m just kind of concerned that they’re away from their support to a degree.”
He said the reassignment of the high school’s three assistant principals and a security specialist, administrators who were with the school during the mass shooting, has affected the mental health of the students who need help the most.
“The kids need help and many of them that do need help are not getting any,” Pittman said Sunday. “They want to talk to people that were there.”
Pittman, who taught Sydney Aiello, said he has spoken with students directly about their concerns over the changing structure of their school. He said more mental health resources may be needed.
“Many of them think that they don’t need help,” he said. “That only their friends who were there understand. More resources probably would help, but also the resources that knew them [are] leaving.”
During a meeting Friday between the district and the faculty, Pittman said Broward Chief Officer of School Performance and Accountability Valerie Wanza acknowledged it was a mistake to remove the administrators students had grown accustomed to seeing.
“I thought it was a mistake then and even more so now,” he said.
He said his students are under “tremendous pressure,” some having seen their friends die or seeing their bodies on the floor after the shooting.
Pittman, who was at the school during the shooting, regularly sees a therapist and takes medication for emotional distress.
“I didn’t witness it, but many of these kids had to witness their friends dying,” he said. “What they have seen, I’m concerned we’re gonna see more.”
On Twitter Sunday, Ryan Petty posted “17 + 2” with a breaking heart emoji, a somber reminder of the growing tally of the massacre.
“I’m afraid that Sydney did it, and now this other kid has done it…” Pittman said. “I don’t know how long it will take but we need more help.”
Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.