LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio unveiled several initiatives Thursday aimed to prevent bullying and suicide following the death of 10-year-old Seven Bridges, including hosting a summit with other school districts and boosting resources for students and parents.
Bridges, a fifth-grade student at Kerrick Elementary, was found dead by suicide on Saturday by his mother, Tami Charles, who said he was a victim of bullying.
Pollio said he has begun reaching out to other school districts to coordinate the suicide prevention summit, which will include additional training for all JCPS administrators.
“We plan to invite superintendents from all across the commonwealth to help us and to work together to reduce this statewide and nationwide problem,” he said.
One superintendent Pollio singled out was Manny Caulk, head of Fayette County Public Schools, as someone he will contact to participate in the summit. He said JCPS wants to arrange the gathering “as soon as possible.”
“The two biggest districts can work together on this,” Pollio said, noting that teen suicide has jumped some 70 percent in the past decade. “… It’s a complex issue with many factors involved in it, but I think it’s important we all come together to really work to see how we can immediately reduce those numbers.”
Bridges’s death is the eighth by suicide so far this school year, up from three during 2017-18.
“I think other districts are seeing this, too, so it’s hard to get to the bottom of what causes it all the time,” Pollio said. “But without a doubt, the increase in suicide is a concern for us, and we’re taking action to address that.”
Pollio said JCPS will also have more administrative staff available to review bullying complaints; offer more avenues for parents and students to report bullying to the district’s central office; hire more mental health counselors to cover every school for the 2019-20 school year, one of Pollio's top budget priorities in the upcoming spending plan; and provide greater outreach to parents so they know what resources are available throughout the district.
Pollio’s announcement coincided with the first day of a series of events Seven's family has organized to honor the boy’s life called “Seven Days for Seven,” which begins with a benefit comedy show at Union Station Nightclub at 9 p.m.
Pollio said he discussed the ideas he presented Thursday with Charles, Seven’s mother.
“She was in support of it and even offered to be partners with us in this work as a person who has gone through this, a mother who has gone through this,” he said, adding that as a father he can’t imagine the devastation she and her family have felt in the wake of Seven’s death.
“Clearly I think she wants to see us take these important steps,” he continued.
Charles could not immediately be reached for comment.
News of Seven’s death has gripped not only the school district, but also the Louisville community and beyond.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city trained 2,000 people in suicide prevention last year, saying the boy’s death “just rips your heart apart.”
“My heart goes out to his family,” Fischer told WDRB News. “It should be a wakeup call for all parents in our community, for the school system as well to say, ‘Are we doing everything we possibly can?’”
Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.
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