Coweta students return to class one day after a suicide at school
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
2/06/13 at 7:20 AM
COWETA - Coweta students went back to school Tuesday, the day after a ninth-grade boy took his life in a restroom.
Superintendent Jeff Holmes released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying it was a difficult day but that attendance was near normal at all of the school sites except for the Intermediate High School, where there were about 50 more absences than usual.
Holmes said attendance still was better than expected at the school, where a 15-year-old student died of a self-inflicted gunshot around 8:35 a.m. Monday. The state Medical Examiner's Office identified him as Triston Stephens.
Holmes said more than 20 additional counselors were called in to assist students and staff members. Most of those counselors were stationed at the Intermediate High School and will be on hand as long as needed.
"Counselors from the surrounding school districts of Bixby, Broken Arrow, Porter, Oktaha and Hilldale were used as well as various other crisis teams," Holmes said. "Multiple other school districts and agencies are currently on standby and may be used in upcoming days."
Police were patrolling the high school campus and officers were staged at the front doors Tuesday morning.
Some students huddled together in prayer just before classes started at 8:30 a.m.
"We're just up here to make sure the kids know we're behind them," said Stephen Langford, who said he has three students in Coweta schools.
Returning to school only 24 hours after the tragedy is the thing to do, he said.
"Everybody needs to get through this together," Langford said.
Holmes said that the district appreciates everyone who has extended their thoughts, prayers and good deeds.
"The support for our students and staff has been tremendous," he said.
Police say they want to speak to anyone who might know something about his death.
Police Lt. Donnie Krumsiek did not identify Stephens during a press conference Monday. He said a student died of a single gunshot wound just as the first-hour classes had started. Police don't think anyone else was in the restroom at the time.
"Unfortunately, a life was lost, but it could have been a lot worse," Krumsiek said, referring to other school shootings in which multiple people have been killed.
Police have not released any new information about the case but have vowed to conduct an in-depth and thorough investigation.
"We're going to interview everybody that potentially or possibly was involved, and we're going to try to give the family some closure, and that closure will come with the truth," Krumsiek said Monday.
Authorities said they don't know how the teenager carried the gun into the building or where he kept it, Holmes said. He also said they did not know how or where the boy obtained the gun.
Krumsiek said the school was not equipped with metal detectors.
Police have not received any information indicating that Stephens had been bullied, and they are continuing to investigate the circumstances of his death, he said.
Holmes said Coweta Public Schools have zero tolerance for bullying and that beginning in elementary school, students take part in character education programs that address bullying and suicide prevention.
"According to his principal and counselors, he was a very fine young man," Holmes said Monday. Parents were notified of the situation by an automated phone call, he said.
Coweta Intermediate High School, at 14699 S. 305th East Ave., has about 250 students and is next door to Coweta High School, at 14607 S. 305th East Ave.
Original Print Headline: Students return after Coweta teen suicide
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
Students go through the main entrance at the Coweta Intermediate High School on Tuesday as classes resume the day after a 15-year-old student shot and killed himself in a bathroom at the school. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Cars line up to drop off students at Coweta schools as classes resume on Tuesday after a 15-year-old student shot himself in a bathroom at the Intermediate High School on Monday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World