Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tragedy at Bennion Jr. High

On Thursday, November 29, a Bennion Jr. High student shot himself on the 6200 South skybridge in front of other students. His passing has been one of shock and terrible grief for the students and staff at Bennion, along with those of us throughout the community.

Banner on the skybridge where the suicide took place

Last night Mayor Wall stopped in at the candlelight vigil to give his condolences to the students there. Today Mayor Wall and I were able to go to the school and talk to the students during their lunch. It was a very sobering experience to see how sad the students were. Mayor Wall was able to help one especially distraught girl and we left with a better appreciation for the many hard working teachers, administrators and counselors.

We have been very impressed with the professional way the Unified Police Department and Granite School District have handled this situation. Bennion Junior High is a great school, with a top-notch principal who makes good decisions for the safety of the students. The Crisis Team was excellent and many of the students we spoke with had taken advantage of the opportunity to visit with them in the library. We were especially impressed with the gentle and sympathetic manner in which the teachers handled the students. In each class the students were asked about their well being and given an opportunity to talk about what happened. Students told us how unusually quiet it was in the halls throughout the day.

We are devastated for the family of David Phan, and many residents throughout Taylorsville are praying for this family and all the students at Bennion.

David Phan

Here is some information on suicide provided by the Salt Lake Valley Health Department.

We feel it is appropriate to share the statement released by Granite School District today in regards to this issue:

This is a summarized statement on multiple topics related to yesterday's incident at Bennion Junior High. As the Unified Police have completed their communications with family, we now feel comfortable identifying the student involved in yesterday's tragic suicide as David Q. Phan. Additionally, we can confirm that the weapon was obtained outside of the school campus and at no time does it appear that the weapon was on campus. 

This morning, the administration met with faculty in a special meeting. Grief counselors provided information and guidance to teachers to help them assist students in dealing with this incident. Teachers were counseled and informed on measures that should be taken over the next few weeks with respect to students emotional needs. Specifically, they were counseled to allow appropriate amounts of instructional time for students to express their thoughts and feelings regarding the situation.

A grief counselor was specifically assigned to follow David's class schedule throughout the day. The intent being, to have opportunity for that counselor to meet and provide assistance specifically to his fellow classmates. Additionally, students and staff were notified regarding ongoing grief counseling that will be available all throughout the school day in the school's library (media center). Those services will be provided as long as is necessary.

The district and police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding this situation. There appears to be ongoing rumors throughout social media and reported in the news media that the student was being bullied. This is of particular grave concern to the school and district. There is an indication that the student reported a bullying concerns several years ago. Consequently, school administration and counselors have stayed in close contact with him since that time. Counselors have further remained in close regular contact with David because of other issues in his personal life. Despite specific personal inquiries, David never reported any further bullying concerns and on the contrary, reported that things were going well.

If students or patrons have ANY specific information that the school and police can investigate in relation to this incident, we need that information and will continue to pursue bullying allegations vigorously.

While the administration and police still have outstanding questions with respect to what led this student to take this action, what is clear at this point in time, is that David was facing significant personal challenges on multiple fronts. Without detailing private information that is available to us, at this point in time, it would not be appropriate to make any formal conclusions.

With respect to this incident, it seems appropriate to remind our students of the resources that are available to them to report instances of unsafe behavior or activities within our schools. We have messaged our principals district-wide and requested that they reiterate to their student populations regarding the resources that are available to them to report any unsafe behavior or activities to administrators. Our greatest security system within our schools is the eyes and ears of our students and they have a moral imperative to report unsafe behavior to a trusted adult, teacher or administrator. Additionally, these safety violations can also be reported anonymously through a district safety hotline at (801) 481-7199 or via text at (801) 664-2929. Posters with this information is available in all of our schools and the information is reiterated at the beginning of the school year.

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