Commack Schools Respond to Recent Student Deaths

Superintendent announces four-prong course of action to support students; online petition helps to rally community.

Commack school officials have responded to two recent students deaths at after more than 2,500 signature on an online petition demanded action be taken. 

Commack Superintendent Donald James sent a virtual letter home to Commack residents announcing that help is available for high school students coping with the loss of two classmates, and announcing a four-prong course of action. 

The March 16 letter reads: 

As the Commack community struggles to come to grips with the recent loss of two of its promising young high school students... I want to take a moment to inform you that there is recognition of the toll that these losses, and others like them, have taken on our students, staff, school district and the greater community. 

James' letter identifies the two students who have recently passed, which Patch has declined to publish to respect the privacy of their families. 

The superintendent said counselors, psychologist and social workers were available for students who needed them, and the same team was monitoring students. Group counseling sessions and grief sessions are being facilitated in the high school, according to the letter. 

According to an online petition on Change.org, the recent deaths are two of 17 student deaths within the high school in the past five years. A member of the Commack school community, Victoria Modica, started a petition to convince school officials to allow suicide prevention into Commack High School. 

The petition reads, 

In the past 5 years, 17 students from Commack High School have passed away and a number of these deaths have been students that have chosen to take their own lives. Its time to make a change!

If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen.

Pass this around to anyone you know.

Be the Change!

This online petition has received more than 2,500 signatures. Modica reports that she delivered several copies of the petition to Commack High School and spoke directly to school officials of her desire to see a change within the district. 

Attempts by Patch to reach Modica were unsuccessful.

Its unclear what impact, if any, the online petition had on the superintendent's open announcement of a four-prong course of action to review, evaluate and potentially create new district policies for responding to such tragedies. 

James said the Component I will focus on the prevention of self-destructive behaviors, drug and alcohol use/abuse and suicide prevention. Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services Amy Ryan will lead a committee that will recommend professional organizations who can work with district staff to develop skills necessary to help students deal with emotional issues.

The second component will be a committee of staff and community residents to review the district's current protocols, practices and procedures lead by the high school and middle school principals, James said. This group will review the Student Code of Conduct and the training provision of the new Dignity for All Student Act. 

A third committee will review the district's measures designed to deter students from engaging in aggressive and inappropriate behavior. Richard Scheer, a specialist in modifying unacceptable teen behaviors hired in the fall of 2011, will work with the group to address issues including cyber, physical and verbal bullying. 

Lastly, James has said Commack Coalition of Caring will be involved in each of the above three groups and double its efforts to prevent drug and alcohol abuse. 

The superintendent encouraged district residents if they needed support, or knew someone who did, to call him at 631-912-2010, email him at djames@commackschools.org or to call the guidance office or main office of any school. 

Commack schools also has an anonymous alert system, which is found on the district's website. 

Irondog March 28, 2012 at 04:33 PM
While bullying is definitely an issue and the fact that kids are cruel to each other, the bigger problem is kids growing up today have no secure or stable home life. If their parents are even still married, most of them both have to work to make ends meet. So no parental supervision and guidance, no family meals together, no comfort in sitting down and discussing things. Any child having a difficult time in life or is getting in trouble, causing trouble, getting arrested, whatever the case, I fully blame the parents. Wake up parents!!!! And any kids reading this, if you have issues with life, approach your parents. If they love you, they should be there for you.
susan r March 28, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Rob, you are right! I cannot tell you how many parties my son has been invited to where alcohol is a given, this has been going since he was 15!. Sometimes the parents are home, sometimes they are out, some of them just look the other way! It is truly unbelievable to me that this happens but it does!! Parent have actually said in front of me that the kids drink and if they are going to do it they would prefer they did it at home- REALLY!! Did they forget that it is illegal, the chances of the becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs skyrockets when they start at such an early age (medically proven) and the fact that they let other minors drink in their house is immoral and also illegal????? It makes it so hard to do the right thing as a parent when there are so many bad parents out there! How about telling your kid, No, you can't drink , you are too young and it is not good for you, you will end up doing things you would not do if you were sober and oh yeah-it's illegal!!!! How about telling them "Be a leader of one, follower of none"
susan r March 28, 2012 at 05:01 PM
PS My son does not attend these parties, his "friends" know he does not drink and I pretty much know every kid in Commack that does. I would let their parents know but they already know and they are okay with it. Parents should start looking at their children's facebook and twitter pages it would give them quite an education, they openly discuss what they are doing and with pictures too! Thankfully there are some kids who do not drink I would put it at maybe 15% at age 16.
Gigi March 28, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Not everyone shares your religious beliefs. The Bible (old or new testament), the Koran, etc. have no business in a PUBLIC school!! Not for nothing but plenty of practicing Christians commit suicide.
Gigi March 28, 2012 at 06:13 PM
I suppose you don't consider all the priests that have molested little boys as acts of barbarism? Most of the violence through the ages has been done in the name of religion.
Gigi March 28, 2012 at 06:14 PM
What's Jesus say when the priests are sodomizing the altar boys?
John Gruber March 28, 2012 at 06:58 PM
in 2003 there was a study that concluded about 35% of teenagers drink. There's no way that 15% choose NOT TO, let alone 16 year olds. that's kind of an overstatement but that's besides the point. Going through your child's facebook, twitter, phone, ect.without them knowing isn't the solution, it breaches their trust and creates future problems where they won't feel like they can talk to you and trust issues with parents can create big problems as well, trust me. you have to be open with your child, make sure that they know the risks and why they shouldn't do it and trust that they make the right choices with the right information. high school is about increasing a child's responsibility to make good choices and parents can't keep tabs 24/7 on their kids so they have to make sure the kids can make smart, safe choices on their own.
susan r March 28, 2012 at 07:22 PM
There are way more than 35% of 16 year olds that drink, I don't care what study you are looking at, I'd rather count the faces than some percentage on a study. I am also not talking about spying on your kid, it's called keeping tabs on them and sometimes kids need to be protected from themselves. They are young and will not always make the right choices - that is part of growing up, but you have to make sure that one bad decision does not turn into a life of addiction. BTW my son know we look at his facebook and twitter, he does not consider it spying, he considers quality control and he knows it is because we care about him. He also can come to us with any problem and talk freely about anything which he has done on several occasions. As parents we all have to do what we think is right, raising children is not easy in this day and age.
heather March 28, 2012 at 07:23 PM
To Mark - be careful how you characterize people. I would never venture to say that I can speak for any of the kids who died, to know the cause, to know what was going on in their lives. My daughter suffers from depression, goes to CHS, has tried to take her life before and she is a Christian. She has a relationship with Jesus Christ, prays, reads the Bible. She has cried out to Him for help, as have so many on her behalf. But, she suffers from an illness that is as real as cancer, and it is kicking her butt. Yet instead of cancer cells attacking her, it is her brain. For some people I believe the Bible can be the answer for pain. But, it is not that simple as to say that people without God have a life of pain and people with Him do not. My daughter's pain is very real. If she were to read your comments, I think it would hurt her. I felt you judging the kids who died, which could have been my daughter, so I felt you judging her, assuming you know her. But, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Your comments are an example of why Christians are so often called close-minded. Please don't make blanket characterizations of people that you do not know. How about offering up some blanket love instead.
susan r March 28, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Heather I just want to say I am sorry for you and your daughters disease. I know depression has nothing to do with a lack of God in someones life - that is just the ramblings of an idiot on a soapbox. I will pray for you, your daughter and your family that one day we will know more about depression and how to treat it properly. Christians, the way God meant them to be should be full of love and kindness and not judgement.
Greg Martinez March 28, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Attacking and insulting Christianity and the Bible has gone on for around two millennia. In spite of the attacks, the Bible is still here, and guess what, Christians and the Bible will always be here, until the Lord returns. Perhaps an anti-Christian will explain how children hearing the following in school will harm them? 23 Psalm (KJV) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
John Gruber March 28, 2012 at 10:07 PM
you don't have to be anti-christian to respect the fact that other people have different faiths and shouldn't be subjected to it if they don't want to. It's not just about Christianity, if you had said the torah or Koran it would be the same case. We're not necessarily anti anything, we just don't think it should be forced down other people's throat if they don't want to
susan r March 28, 2012 at 11:12 PM
You have every right to believe what you want as does anyone else. I don't know George if you have children in the school district but if you do and are not pleased with them not learning and hearing about God in a classroom that is what catholic school is for. PS no one has attacked Christianity or the bible on this web page, we are merely saying you have your right to your beliefs and we have the right to ours - welcome to America. PS I am a Christian, raise my children that way, go to church on Sunday, pray and if I felt they needed more religion in their life then they were already getting from their family I would send them to catholic school oh and I also am a religion teacher
Mrs. F. March 29, 2012 at 12:28 AM
The district has failed miserably in addressing the issues surrounding these deaths. National statistics show a direct link between bullying and teen suicide. In my view, these bullies are terrorists. They terrorize their victims so why not borrow NYPD's tag line, if you see something, say something. We must teach our children if you see a child being bullied, don't ignore it, tell on them. We all need to protect each other. And our children learn from us, we are their roll models. We as parents need to step up and teach them by example that each one of us matters. The district can set up a dozen committees and hire consultants but it won't make any difference. This isn't brain surgery. Go to the source. Gather the kids, let them speak about what is really going on in a free and open forum. I bet you'll find kids who never had social or emotional issues until they got to middle or high school. All these kids really want is someone to listen to them and know that they matter.
Mark Cullin March 29, 2012 at 12:25 PM
There eyes can't see. There ears can't hear. And their hearts are hardened. and they will not turn to me and let me heal them, Jesus said. When you follow the teachings of Christ you have some tools to fight off depresssing and negative thoughts. I'm not shoving religion down peoples throats. These are the people who comment on here who never even read or studied the word of God. To Heather thinking I'm judging the kids. When you point the finger, three of your other fingers are pointing at you. Greg Martinez Knows the word, smart gentleman. Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy, proverbs. Nothing can stop someone from taking there own life. Bible, teachers, parents, friends, etc. Don't tell me all of us on here never even once entertained the idea. All of our answers, solutions and questions will not bring back these kids. Only Love and Hope for a brighter tomorrow from within each person keeps us alive. So instead of all of us airing our own opinions and trying to think we have the answer to these tragedies. Go tell your, neighbor, friend, Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, that you Love them and they are important to you, In Person face to face. God Bless all of you, Whether you are a believer or not,
Andrea? March 29, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Okay..first of all..this is public school we are talking about..not Catholic school. The public school has no business teaching the bible. One has nothing to do with the other! SSecond of all, if we spend less time on teh internet/texting to our friends and loved and actually sat down with our children and "talked"..there wouldn't be a high suicide rate in the school.
Matt March 29, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Mark- First of all, I studied the teaching of Christ plenty, then as a young child about to make his first communion a priest decided he would try to make a move on me, thankfully he got nowhere with his attempts. However he dis horrible things to a friend of mine. With that being said; 1.We CAN help prevent some people from committing suicide, maybe not all, but every life is worth fighting for. 2.no, I never contemplated suicide. 3.Love and hope for a brighter tomorrow doesn't keep me alive, water, food and air takes care of that. 4. Try something new, educate yourself on a topic you know nothing about. Go to www.afsp.org. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to suicide prevention.
Andrea? March 29, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Very well said Matt!!
Cire M March 29, 2012 at 06:44 PM
You know, I almost think you're saying this stuff just to upset people and start a discussion. I feel like you are playing Devil's Advocate. The irony is astonishing.
susan r March 29, 2012 at 11:18 PM
It's THEIR eyes can't see, not there
Gigi March 30, 2012 at 12:59 AM
susan - jesus never concerns himself with grammar & spelling ;)
Gigi March 30, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Well done, Matt!
Concerned April 05, 2012 at 03:12 AM
It may not have to do with religion but could be because of lack of ... suicide is against the bible and possibly the bible or simply the word of God could have helped some of these young people to have something to turn to in their times of need. BTW not all 17 committed suicide.
Concerned April 05, 2012 at 03:21 AM
TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE - PLEASE SHARE - IT COULD SAVE A LIFE! Bully Official Trailer #1 - Weinstein Company Movie (2012) HD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1g9RV9OKhg If you can't click on the link then copy and paste -
John Gruber April 05, 2012 at 02:11 PM
do you know how many people commit suicide because they are bullied for being homosexual? I know to many from the high school alone, and yes many of those of took their lives were. They're picked on unmercifully because the other kids were taught homosexuality was wrong, which they probably learned in bible school or from people who are religious, so it's highly hypocritical to say the bible would help when kids are picked on because they act differently than how the bible says they should
Liz April 26, 2012 at 04:29 PM
This country was founded on Christian beliefs. The "Principle of Separation of Church and State" came much later. It is probably one of the most misused phrases of our time. Separation of Church and state was established to promote freedom of religion. Remember the pilgrims? How they fled religious persecution? That being said, it was never the intent that God would be taken out of the equation. People need to believe that we are here for a reason. Life on Earth is not a random accident. My heart grieves for every family that lost a child. These side arguments are irrelevant. My question is: What is going to be done to prevent future trajedy?
Liz April 26, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Am I the only one who finds it ridiculous that after offering compassion and ending a post with "God Bless You" the writer finds it necessary to add " I hope That does not offend anyone"? Is anyone offended by that? I seriously would like to know. Is all this political correctness only one way? Why does mentioning God lead to so much offense and ill-will?
Liz April 26, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Well said, Heather. I will pray for you and your daughter. I will also share some personal experience in the hope that it will help. Currently, I am a wife and mother. Formerly, I was a teacher...and way before that a student. I suffered from depression and tried to take my own life. I cut one wrist and swallowed over thirty muscle relaxers. I cannot explain why I did not die that night. The doctors could not explain it, either. I know that there was and is a purpose and a plan for my life. The same is true for your daughter. I am not deliriously happy everyday, but I have found joy in living. I am praying for the same {and more} for your precious daughter.
Liz April 26, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Hey! I just realized I am commenting on month old posts! Where is the new stuff? :)
aidansmom2009 February 12, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Thank you for sharing your story. Glad you are still here to tell it. Kids today are cruel and it is heartbreaking .


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