Saturday, September 19, 2020
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Lawsuit over teen suicide plan in Mundelein

A lawsuit alleges that a suburban Chicago school district didn’t have a new suicide prevention policy in place, as was required under a new suicide-awareness law, when a high school freshman committed suicide in October 2015, the Daily Herald reports.

Information from 2015. (Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

Ann Marie’s Law, as it is called, was signed in 2015 by Governor Bruce Rauner and took effect for the 2015-16 school year. It required schools to update their suicide awareness and prevention plan. For example, under the law, a school is supposed to have protocols for dealing with students who show signs of being at risk for suicide.

Mikyla Wren was a freshman at Mundelein High School in Lake County, Illinois, when she died on October 26, 2015. On October 15, the lawsuit alleges, a dean at High School District 120’s only school contacted Mikyla’s mother and said the word ‘suicide’ was discovered on Mikyla’s school-issued laptop.

Unfortunately, Mikyla didn’t get in to see a counselor until October 21, according to the complaint, even though Mikyla’s mother, who’s an emergency room physician, requested an immediate risk assessment be conducted. Even after Mikyla met with a school counselor, however, the family never received any information about what was discussed. Five days later, Mikyla committed suicide.

The lawsuit, filed in Lake County Circuit Court, is seeking only that the school district update its suicide-prevention plan, in accordance with Ann Marie’s Law, and reimburse the family for court and attorney’s costs.

The law is named for Ann Marie Blaha, an 11-year-old student from southwest-suburban Orland Park, who committed suicide in June 2013:

Requires the State Board of Education to (i) develop a model youth suicide awareness and prevention policy; (ii) compile, develop, and post on its Internet website recommended guidelines and educational materials for professional educator training and recommended resources and age-appropriate educational materials on youth suicide awareness and prevention; and (iii) develop a model youth suicide awareness and prevention curriculum … Requires each school board to (i) adopt an age-appropriate youth suicide awareness and prevention policy and (ii) require 4 hours of training in youth suicide awareness and prevention every 5 years for professional educators in school buildings …

Whether an age-appropriate plan was developed at Mundelein High School is the central question of this lawsuit, but suicide prevention and awareness is its goal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24. CDC statistics show that 4,878 15- to 24-year-olds killed themselves in 2013, up from 3,988 just 10 years earlier.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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  1. I find it insulting as a mother that a mother knew of her child’s depression and upon hearing from the school that there was a concern that her daughter may take her life she takes no action for 3 or 4 days and in fact asks the school to determine if her daughter was expressing herself. She was depressed and mom did nothing instead she asked her school to intervene and then blamed them for her death. I have knowledge of this family and can assure you appearances are more important than accountability so it must be someone else’s fault. It’s frustrating and sickening. Her mom should be ashamed of her own behavior in blaming the school and for not having eyes on her daughter to protect her. After all she didn’t hang herself at school, now did she?

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