Memo: Death Of Second Newton Teen This Month

Update: 10/25/13:  Katherine Stack’s death was due to “asphyxia by hanging” according to Terrel Harris, a spokesman with the Executive Office of Public Safety & Security Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The state won’t comment further beyond the manner and means of her death, Harris said.

Update, 10/22/13: “The cause of death for Katherine Stack was determined to be suicide,” according to an email from Terrel Harris, a spokesman with the Executive Office of Public Safety & Security Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

It’s another horrible tragedy in Newton.

Newton South (Wikimedia Commons)

Newton South (Wikimedia Commons)

Authorities say the death of teenager Katherine Stack, a sophomore at Newton South High School, “is not suspicious and there is no foul play.” And while no one has uttered the word “suicide,” it’s no doubt on the minds of many students, parents and administrators today, following the death earlier this month of Newton North High School senior Karen Douglas. (Her death was described by her sister as a “suicide” on Reddit.)

Here’s a letter from Newton Superintendent of Schools David Fleishman to the community:

October 17, 2013

Dear Newton Community,

It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that Katherine Stack, a Newton South sophomore, died unexpectedly last night. Authorities have stated that the death is not suspicious and there is no foul play.

Our thoughts are with Katie’s family during this very difficult time. It is hard to imagine what they are going through right now.

The death of any young person is a terrible tragedy. This loss is compounded by the recent death of a Newton North student, Karen Douglas. Please know that we will have counselors available at our secondary schools, as we know that many of our students will have heard about this news through friends and social media. If you have any concerns about your child/children, please make contact with their guidance counselor and they will make sure to follow up. Processing two sudden deaths within a short time frame is very difficult to comprehend so we have provided some information below that you may find helpful.

Next Monday, October 21st we have scheduled a community forum in the Newton South Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. to help process these two recent tragedies. The Riverside Trauma Center has been a terrific resource for us during difficult times. Dr. Larry Berkowitz and Joanna Bridger will share important information about how to talk with your child/children about a sudden death and how to support your child/children and yourself following tragic events. The Mayor and other city and school leaders will join me at this forum.

I fully recognize that this is a very trying time for the City of Newton. I am hopeful that together, we will provide the support, care and kindness necessary to move forward. Please let any Newton Public Schools’ staff member know if we can be of help to you and your family.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also provides guidance on how adults can help children after a traumatic event at this website: http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//SMA12-4732/SMA12-4732.pdf

Dr. Robert Evans, Psychologist and School Consultant, offers five guidelines that can make a positive difference for children after tragic events. Visit this link for more information: http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/sites/default/files/users/176/helpingchildrencopewithtragicloss.pdf

Riverside Mobile Crisis Intervention (781-769-8674) can also be called if you have concerns about the safety of your child.

For an additional resource, here’s our post from psychiatrists at Massachusetts General Hospital on how to cope with the overwhelming grief of a teenager’s suicide. And this from Temple Beth Avodah in Newton to its community:

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