In yet another case of school suicide, a teenager, Corey Walgren fell to his death after officials of his school at a suburban Chicago called to discipline him about a video he made of himself having sex with a classmate. Report by the Associated Press, AP, said a few hours later, the 16 -year old boy walked to the top of the five-story parking deck and jumped off. The teen’s parents have sued the school, accusing it in a federal lawsuit of unnecessarily traumatizing their son by warning him he could be charged and forced to register as a sex offender. They are allegedly seeking more than $5 million in damages.
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This incident raised a debate on regularities of school suicide and whether school officials should wait until parents arrive to pose questions and search cell phones for illicit photos or video? Or do they, as de facto parents, have the authority to investigate crimes that might include child pornography? According to Terry Ekl, the attorney representing Corey’s parents, Maureen and Doug Walgren,
“They [school staff] scared the hell out of the kid, and that’s what drove Corey to kill himself.”
The staff of the school of 2,800 pupils conveyed in the documents, that they made it clear to Corey the seriousness of the matter while also reassuring him that their goal was to keep it out of court. Detail of the school suicide given by the local media said it all began on January 11 after the 16-year-old classmate with whom Walgren had sex with lodge a complaint at the school. The girl had learned of the video from a friend and was upset Walgren made it without her knowledge or permission.
At first, she said, she was not sure the sex was consensual but later stated clearly that it was. The family never blamed the girl and said she was right to report the video, Ekl said. She later attended Corey’s wake. The school Dean, Steve Madden admits he had never seen Walgren under these circumstances because the teen had never been in trouble. In other words, facing discipline at school was a new experience for the deceased.
Corey reportedly walked into the office at about 12:40 p.m where he quickly admitted what he had done. When the two teens were in his car, parked on a secluded street at night, he had turned on the video-recording function and dropped his cell phone by his leg after the pair talked and shared some alcohol. Neither teen was visible on the two minutes of footage during their sexual encounter. It was the audio Corey played for four friends, some at a school hockey practice, but he never texted or emailed it.
The boy was interviewed for at least 20 minutes until his parents were called and he admitted what he did was wrong. Mr. Madden said Corey did not appear upset by the questioning; “he was calm, cooperative and respectful,” and Dean also thanked him for being honest. His parents believe what he heard must have caused him “psychological distress … humiliation and shame.
However, after meeting school officials, Corey was told to wait at a student-services office while his mother drove to the school. He sat behind a secretary, and the two chatted casually.
When she looked back minutes later, he was gone. Surveillance footage later showed him walking up a parking deck ramp less than a mile away. At the top, he paced for several minutes. According to the police report, a woman heading to her car glanced up to see someone sitting five floors above. She wasn’t alarmed because the person “was calmly sitting on the ledge.”
But a minute later, at 2:40 p.m., she looked out a third-deck window. The same person was now laying on the ground level. She ran down the stairwell and began performing CPR before an ambulance arrived. The teen’s mother was at the school after 3 p.m. when she was told that a person who was injured downtown might be her son. She did not see him until after doctors pronounced him dead at 3:27 p.m; less than three hours had passed since her son was summoned to the dean’s office.
There have been many records of school suicide around the world influenced by factors such as drugs, bully, depression or simply out of frustrations in life. Discussing school suicide with students has remained taboo topics in schools as teachers and parents are often concerned about putting ideas in students’ heads. They worry talking about it more will lead students to swap strategies and compare wounds, and whether there are resources to support additional disclosures.
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