Coweta students, staff grapple with how to move forward after teen's suicide
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
2/12/13 at 7:10 AM
COWETA - About thirty of Triston Stephens' classmates attended his funeral Friday in Arkansas where he had extended family, a school official said.
The 15-year-old died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a bathroom at Coweta Intermediate High School on Feb. 4 just as school had started.
The school went on lockdown while authorities secured the scene and determined that the ninth-grader was the only victim of the gunfire. School was then canceled for the day and worried parents flocked to the school to pick up their children.
"It has obviously been one of the worst weeks of my life, our staff's life and the students' lives," said Coweta Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Holmes. "But we're getting a lot of support from people in our community."
Holmes said that students have taken advantage of the grief counselors that have been at the school all week. They were still on hand Monday for anyone who wanted to talk.
"Parents and teachers are encouraging students to seek out those counselors," he said.
While rumors and speculation surrounding the teenager's death have been rampant, Holmes said they have no reason to believe that bullying contributed to his death.
Holmes said that speakers at the funeral shed some light on things going on in the teenager's life but that out of the respect for the family he would not be publicly discussing that.
Coweta Police Lt. Donnie Krumsiek said Monday that authorities have provided all of the information the family has requested concerning their loved one's death in an effort to bring them a sense of closure.
Beyond that, Krumsiek said that the police would not be making any more public announcements in an effort to avoid causing the family any more pain.
"We want to focus now on helping kids get the help they need: 'You are not out there by yourself - there are people out there that will listen,'" Krumsiek said.
A candlelight vigil was held the evening of Feb. 4 just outside Coweta High School. Students, parents and area residents wept openly, still in shock.
According to his obituary, Stephens was a member of the Gold Prospectors Association and took regular trips to Alaska to prospect for gold.
He also was a gamer and loved four-wheeling, his obituary said.
Coweta Intermediate High School, at 14699 S. 305th East Ave., is next door to Coweta High School, at 14607 S. 305th East Ave.
According to Oklahoma Department of Education records, Coweta Intermediate High School has about 250 ninth-grade students.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens in Oklahoma, where the rate among teens is above the national average, figures show. Oklahoma's youth suicide rate is 9.4 per 100,000 population, compared to the national rate of 7.3.
Suicide prevention and intervention resources
The CALM Center
COPES mobile crisis unit
Youth Services of Tulsa
Family & Children's Services
Parent Child Center of Tulsa
Mental Health Association in Tulsa
Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health
OSU-Tulsa Medical Center
Parkside Psychiatric Hospital
National Suicide Prevention hotline
What can schools do?
Source: Counseling & Recovery Services
- Develop strategies to cope with stressors and difficult feelings and substance abuse
- Develop bonds and feelings of connectedness between youths and their school. Promote mentoring programs and school-based counseling services
- Be knowledgeable of community resources
- Work to ensure all school staff members are trained in basic suicide intervention and prevention strategies
- Communicate with school board members to ensure their support and commitment to school policies and procedures that work to enhance the safety and well-being of staff and students
- Talk with youths about significant changes you notice in their activity level, friend choices, grades, mood, risky behaviors, substance abuse and changes in appearance and/or eating and sleeping habits
Original Print Headline: Coweta students, staff grieve fallen teen
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
Jeff Holmes: "It has obviously been one of the worst weeks of my life, our staff's life and the students' lives," he said.
A bus drops off students at the main entrance to the Coweta Intermediate High School last week the day after a 15-year-old student shot himself in a bathroom at the school. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World