Following the Saturday death of a Waynesville Middle School student, there will be additional counselors, social workers, law enforcement officials and staff in the school when students return to classes.
“We will have a couple of extra substitute teachers on hand in the event staff needs a break,” said Superintendent Bill Nolte, “and there will be a designated room for students to talk to someone. We will make referrals as appropriate.”
Nolte declined to talk of the details of the female student’s death, citing the family’s wish for privacy.
The Waynesville Middle School administrative team posted the following statement on the school website:
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the passing of one of our 7th grade students. We are unable to disclose additional information at this time.
“Out of respect for the family, please refrain from speculating about details.”
The school will have extra counselors available to help our students process and manage their grief.
Love and listen to your children. Hug them tight. They are precious.”
Less than two weeks ago, the school district staff, as well as all middle and high school students in Haywood, were trained on the “Say Something” app, a system where students can anonymously report behavior they find troubling, including bullying or suspicious activity.
The app was not only intended to keep schools safe, but to facilitate anonymous reports for at-risk behavior where a student could be looking to hurt themselves or others, according to information in news releases when the app was rolled out in stages last spring.
The app is a partnership between the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit based in Newtown, Connecticut, that’s led by people who lost loved ones in the tragic 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.
“Students literally click on it and type anything they think is legitimate or that’s threatening,” Nolte said of the app.
Nolte said he learned of the student death Saturday evening, and had been working with the WMS principal, Trevor Putnam, associate superintendent for Haywood County Schools and others the following day to prepare a plan for helping the middle school students cope with the loss.
It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that Nolte and others received a report from the newly launched “Say Something” app that a student at WMS had died. Law enforcement may have received additional tips, however, Nolte said.
He hesitated to discuss any bullying that might have been linked to the student’s death, though did say social media posts on the matter were plentiful.
Lindsay Regner, public information officer with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, said there were no tips received through the new “See Something” app recently implemented at middle and high schools.
However, at 5:06 p.m. Saturday, deputies responded to the death of a 13-year-old girl in the East Waynesville area and are still looking into the matter.
The Sheriff’s Office routinely responds to calls about in-home deaths, Regner said. In this case, the department will be interviewing those close to the deceased and will be looking into the phone records and other details surrounding the death.