Las Vegas Schools Push to Reopen After Rise in Student Suicides
Between March and December, 18 Clark County students took their own lives — more than double the amount the district reported in all of 2019.
LAS VEGAS — A concerning surge in student suicides has prompted the country’s fifth-largest school district to start bringing students back to in-person learning as soon as possible, despite high numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
In mid-January, the Clark County School District’s Board of Trustees approved a plan to phase in some elementary school grades and groups of struggling students, reports Yahoo News. The district serves more than 320,000 students and consists of 360 schools in the Las Vegas area.
Although a timeline is still being finalized, Superintendent Jesus Jara said late February or early March is a “good target” for bringing students back for academic and mental health support.
“When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the COVID numbers we need to look at anymore,” he told the Times. “We have to find a way to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them. They’ve got to start seeing some movement, some hope.”
After Clark County switched to distance learning in March, the district poured resources into the GoGuardian Beacon alert system, a technology that scans student writing and search activity on school-issued iPads and then notifies officials of any ongoing mental health episodes or suicidal thoughts.
From June 2020 to October 2020, the system sent more than 3,100 alerts to Clark County administrators, according to Fox News. Between March and the end of December, 18 Clark County students took their own lives, which is double the amount the district reported in all of 2019. The youngest student was just nine years old.
In one attempted suicide case in November, a 12-year-old student searched for “how to make a noose” on his school iPad. School officials contacted the student’s father, who then went to his bedroom and found the boy with a noose made out of shoestrings around his neck.
“He is having a hard time functioning in this isolation,” the child’s grandfather told the Times, adding that while the boy does well in school, he kept saying he missed his friends. “It goes against everything that he is. There has to be an option of letting these kids go to school.”
To further help students who may be struggling, Clark County teachers have been trained to identify trauma cues on computer screens, school psychologists have been working overtime, and truancy officers have been conducting wellness checks.
Approximately 68 Clark County schools are also participating in a face-to-face counseling program that has resulted in 30 interventions where students were contemplating suicide.
According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been an increase in the percentage of youth emergency room visits for mental health issues during the pandemic. Furthermore, a compilation of emergency calls among all age groups in more than 40 states showed increase numbers related to mental health.
If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional information.