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Letter: Greenwich Superintendent Addresses Student's Suicide, Bullying

Greenwich Superintendent of Schools William McKersie has sent a letter to parents and students following last week's suicide of a 15-year-old student.
Greenwich Superintendent of Schools William McKersie has sent a letter to parents and students following last week's suicide of a 15-year-old student. Photo Credit: File

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Greenwich Superintendent of Schools William McKersie sent the following letter to parents and students in response to the suicide of 15-year-old Bart Palosz last week:

Dear Greenwich Public School Families:

The first week of school was one of great highs and a tragic low. While we opened the schools smoothly and with notable spirit, our hearts were broken when we learned that Greenwich High School sophomore Bartlomiej (Bart) Palosz took his own life last Tuesday.

I am sending this message to every family today to offer in the strongest terms possible my professional and personal commitment to do everything I can to ensure the health, safety and well- being of all our students.  Bart Palosz made a life-ending decision one week ago. I will do all I can as superintendent to prevent any other student from making such a tragic decision.

The Greenwich Police Department (GPD) is conducting an ongoing investigation that includes and reaches beyond the boundaries of the Greenwich Public Schools. We are cooperating fully with the GPD investigation. Please understand that we are bound by laws that are designed to protect student and family rights and are not able to discuss specifics while these investigations are underway.

Reaching well beyond this particular incident, I am pushing ahead on four major efforts to make sure that all of our students are safe and secure in our schools, and that any mistreatment by fellow students or adults will not be tolerated.

1. We are reviewing all policies, procedures and practices regarding bullying to make sure they align with Connecticut State Law and with accepted best practices nationally. Equally important, we are examining how to make sure that we uphold these policies, procedures and policies so that any reported incident is investigated and the appropriate consequences occur for all involved.

2. We will examine how the Greenwich Public Schools, in coordination with parents and families, can effectively access and monitor social media sites where students may evidence dangerous and life-threatening behavior.  The experience in other educational institutions is that the social media challenge requires the active involvement of parents and families, often more so than educators.

3. Even when adults are aware and involved, student peers often have access to information that can bring new perspectives to a given situation. To that end, we will support the establishment of a coordinated set of student groups to advocate for the respectful and peaceful treatment of all students. Students have taken the lead on establishing one such group at Greenwich High School. We will explore the merits of establishing similar groups at each of the middle schools. Lastly, we will work with First Selectman Peter Tesei to establish the “First Selectman’s Youth Council,” which would draw students from public, independent and Catholic schools in Greenwich to promote healthy life choices, including respectful treatment of peers

4. We will reach out to PTA Council leadership and other agencies in Greenwich to support a series of parent sessions on how to help schools and families promote respectful and peaceful behavior among students.

As we move through the year, I will evaluate the merits of each of these efforts. We will modify the plans and work as necessary.

I launched this year with the theme of “Inspiration and Trust.” After the first week of school, it is now clear that examples of inspiration and trust will be different than I imagined. We must inspire one another to come together as a community to support our children. Trust must be fostered – a trust that allows all adults and students to know that they will be treated with respect and dignity. When this year closes, I am confident that we will share many inspiring stories of how students and adults together fostered the trust necessary to ensure the well-being of all our students.

Sincerely,

William S. McKersie, Ph.D. Superintendent Greenwich Public Schools

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