North Plains Elementary responds to student death
A sixth-grade student in the Hillsboro School District died last week from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the district announced Friday, Jan. 4.
Students at North Plains Elementary School were made aware of the news of fellow student Dakoda Devlaeminck on Monday, Jan. 7 — the first day back at school after winter break.
"Doctors made every effort to save him, but unfortunately he was unable to recover from his injuries," Principal Becky Smith said in a letter sent out to families Friday.
Specially-trained counselors from the district's Flight Team prepared a support room at the school on Monday, Smith said, where students could talk to counselors, draw pictures and write letters to the family.
"Our primary concern is the health, well-being, and safety of our students," Smith said. "If you feel your student might particularly struggle with this situation or with something else that's going on in their life, please feel free to contact us so we can help connect them with the appropriate supports. Dakoda's tragic passing is a shock for us and it will take time to heal, but we will get through it together. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends."
Following the news, community members worked to place "love rocks" at the school over the weekend in an effort to show support for students and staff as they returned to class. A GoFundMe has also been set up to assist the family with medical expenses. So far, more than $3,000 has been raised, as of Monday afternoon.
Hillsboro's Flight Team, a group of trained counselors, mental health specialists from across the district, wrote a letter for teachers to read to third through sixth-grade students on Monday. A shorter version of the letter was read to students in kindergarten through second-grade.
North Plains Elementary School letter to students:
This morning I have very sad news to share. One of our sixth-grade students, Dakoda Devlaeminck died during winter break. I'm also very sad to tell you the cause of death was suicide. Suicide is when someone does something to make their body die.
I am sad, and many of you may also feel very sad. Others may feel other emotions such as anger or confusion. It's okay to feel whatever emotions you might be feeling. When someone takes their own life, it leads to a lot of questions, some of which may never be completely answered.
While we may never know why Dakoda ended his life, we do know that suicide has many causes. In many cases, a sickness in the brain is part of it. Brains can get sick, just like other important parts of our body. If it is a serious sickness, it can make the person very confused and sad so that they don't want to live any more. Most people who have this sickness in their brain (called depression) get better with help.
It's really important if you're not feeling well in any way to reach out for help. Suicide should not be an option.
Rumors may come out about what happened, but please don't spread them. They may turn out to be untrue and can be deeply hurtful and unfair to Dakoda and his family and friends. I'm going to do my best to give you the most accurate information as soon as I know it.
Each of us will react to Dakoda's death in our own way, and we need to be respectful of each other. Some of us may have known Dakoda well, and some of us may not. Either way, we may have strong feelings. You might find it difficult to concentrate on schoolwork for a little while. On the other hand, you might find that focusing on school helps take your mind off what has happened. Either is okay.
I want you to know that your teachers and I are here for you. We also have counselors here to help us all cope with what happened. If you'd like to talk to one of them, or draw a picture or note for Dakoda's family, just ask to go to the support room in the library and please walk there with another student or staff member.
We are all here for you. We are all in this together, and the adults at school will do whatever we can to help you get through this.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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