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Hearing from family of teen suicide, Ken-Ton addresses suicide prevention

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District has been addressing suicide prevention as they heard from the family of a student who committed suicide earlier this year, district officials said.

Joseph Smajdor spoke out at a recent Town of Tonawanda board meeting and said he’d like to work with the district to launch a foundation in his grandson’s name to address social skills and how to respond to bullying.

His grandson was a Kenmore West student  who committed suicide in April after reportedly being bullied on social media and then getting involved in a fight.

District officials said they are addressing suicide prevention.

“It starts with prevention. We really try to prevent where we can, but we can’t prevent everything, so we have intervention as well,” said Dr. Michael Lewis, director of special education.

He said when tragic events occur, district staff members looks at what they have been doing and reflect on those needs and how to be more responsive.

The district’s Family Support Center provides family and individual counseling, said Jan Cerra, director of the center. Students who may be suicidal are referred, through partner agencies, for mental health counseling, she said. The center plans to launch a website that families and students can turn to for immediate online help with issues, such as signs of depression, she said.

“The bottom line is, if you are doing something that isn’t working - do something different,” said Cerra. “One hundred percent of our staff is trained in suicide risk assessment.”

Training teachers helps them spot problems inside the classroom, said Elaine Ablove, the director of staff development,




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