An open letter to The Wayzata High School Administrators, Faculty and Staff
June 5, 2014
EDITED 2/21/17. This little blog post created quite an uproar when I wrote it almost 3 years ago. I took my daughter out of the school district after the threats I received. I was threatened and blackmailed to take this post down. I eventually took it down. But today, I’m making it public once again as a tribute to yet another life lost. This is not to implicate Wayzata, we are far removed from the Wayzata Public School district. This is not to blame anyone, but to implore EVERYONE to please, be aware of depression. Be aware of everyone around you and how they are doing. Make them know they matter. Make them know they are loved. Put up with their moods and their depression and their inability to get out of bed. Be there for them NO MATTER WHAT. Stand beside them and walk beside them until they make it out the other side, till they make it out okay. We need to stop losing young people to suicide. WE NEED TO BE AWARE.
This letter is also intended as a public letter to the School District Superintendent, School Board, Wayzata Public Schools faculty and staff, all parents, students, family members, community members of the Wayzata Public School District. The purpose of this letter is to ask you this two-fold question:
How many more lives are you going to allow to be sacrificed before you do something about the suicide epidemic that has swept through Wayzata High School, and, what are you going to do about it?
I’m not asking this question as a knee-jerk reaction to the 2 suicides within 4 weeks, nor as a knee-jerk reaction to 4 suicides within 2 years. I’m asking as a concerned community member and parent of 4 Wayzata Public Schools students who have been in the district from kindergarten through graduation. I come to you as someone who has more than average experience with suicide. I am a registered nurse, a former school nurse to a major Minnesota High School, and someone who has first-hand experience with suicide within my own family. My daughter is a sophomore at Wayzata High School. One of my other daughters recently graduated with the class of 2014. Each of these girls have now had fellow classmates commit suicide.
Yesterday, yet another Wayzata High School student took his own life. How many more lives need to be lost before you address this?
Today, my daughter and her classmates wanted to talk about it in class. I am appalled at what happened next. Her teacher did not even ask them if they needed anything or if they needed to talk. No, instead, her teacher silenced them, shut down the conversation and refused to address it. Basically, as my daughter described it, it was a perfect summation and reflection of the clueless denial that the administration has and its refusal to address this life and death problem. Today I received an email from the Wayzata Public Schools with a link on how to talk to adolescents about death. Are you serious? A link? Two suicides within a month and that’s all you’re going to do to address this epidemic? You’re going to send out a link? There are lives at stake here. People are dying. Do you acknowledge that? Have you asked the question of WHY? Have you asked the question of What is it about Wayzata Public Schools that has created this culture?
Clearly there is a cultural defect within Wayzata schools that has enough influence and impact as to drive these young people to the point of such desperation to conclude that their only option is to end their own lives. If you are honest, you might be able to see it. I can.
I urge you to ask yourselves about the culture at Wayzata Public Schools and Wayzata High School in particular. Take a moment to consider the pressure these young people are under: the stress to succeed—-not just to succeed, but to excel at beyond a college level, AP classes, Honors programs, academic competency tests, college entrance exams, honor roll, honor society, scholarships, financial implications, awards, letters, metals, accolades.
Yes, Wayzata has high academic standards-the best in the State. Yes, Wayzata is a leader in athletics. BUT AT WHAT COST?
In addition to academic and athletic pressure, there is the entirely new phenomenon of social media, in which a student has absolutely NO WAY to escape. There is no way for a student to avoid it, because it is an ONLINE world now. Yet, what is the school’s answer? Yes, it hands out Ipads to every student, just in case they don’t have enough online time, just give them more inability to escape it. More pressure. More stress.
I’m urging you–you’ve got to change something. You’ve got to do something about the culture at Wayzata High School. You’ve got to affect change. You’ve got to relieve the pressure, reduce the stress, and for once, let these kids just be kids. Stop killing them. Please stop letting them die.
To all readers, there has been an overwhelming response to this controversial blog post. Due to the nature of the comments, I’ve found it necessary to add some rules to keep all conversations on this blog civilized.
The rules for commenting:
1. First and last name are required. No screen names. No more hiding in anonymity.
2. Verifiable email address.
3. If you wish to protect your identity (if you’ve been a victim, attempted suicide, have a sensitive story to tell, etc.) leave your comment and I will privately contact you and discuss editing to protect you yet still share your story.
4. Reminder: this is a blog written by a private individual. Reading it is optional. Disagreements are welcome as long as they are constructive and respectful.
5. All comments published are at the discretion of the editor.
The next blog post will be about Bullying in Wayzata. If you have a story that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Again, all victims identities will be protected.