CHESHIRE — Education leaders will meet with parents and residents to explain the school district’s bullying policy following the suicide of an 11-year-old student.
In a letter to parents, School Superintendent Jeff Solan said the district will host a meeting to discuss “our practices around bullying and mental health,” on Wednesday at Doolittle School. He’s planning a similar meeting for the community as well.
Anjelita Estrada, 11, attended Doolittle Elementary School. The state chief medical examiner 's office ruled her death in late December a suicide.
Solan said up until now he refrained from making many statements due to concern over the family’s privacy.
“The allegation of bullying has been reported in media and through the public forum. The well-being of our students is paramount,” he wrote. “As such, we are focused on examining any culture of mean-spirited behavior that may exist in our schools, as well as, how we respond to all reports of bullying that are made.”
Police have nearly completed an investigation into Estrada’s death, according to police Lt. Michael Durkee.
The girl's father, Anthony Estrada, said she had moved to Cheshire about six months before her death with her mother and stepfather. Estrada, who lives in New Mexico, told the Record-Journal last week he believes bullying was a factor in her suicide although he said getting details from his daughter on phone calls was difficult.
He'd also heard about Anjelita's troubles at school through the girl's mother.
"My part in this is to push this message. I lost my 11-year-old daughter not entirely because of this, she was strong kid, but this definitely did not help," Estrada said.
He could not be reached for comment Monday. The girl’s mother and stepfather also could not be reached for comment.
Kathryn Hallen, school board chairwoman, said since many people in the community are talking about the issue she was glad that there’ll be a chance for school officials to present how they handle bullying. She said she didn’t believe there was a “direct correlation between any incident of bullying and the tragic incident that involved this young lady.”
“I believe that the schools all follow the right protocol to deal with these issues. If we need to work on that, we’ll do so,” Hallen said. “We need to have community conversations. We need to have all our students and our parents comfortable with how we handle these issues.”
In a few weeks Cheshire students will again have an opportunity to take a survey that includes questions about depression and suicidal thoughts, among other things. Solan said the survey is a key component of the district’s work concerning school culture and climate. He said school leaders are working to provide age-appropriate mental health support and suicide prevention education to students.
Solan said district parents, teachers and students have been heartbroken by Estrada’s death.
“I know that her loss has justifiably caused our schools and community to question how this could happen,” he wrote. “This is a question that we have asked ourselves every day since her passing.”
The state child fatality review panel will review Estrada’s death and could conduct an investigation based on its initial findings. The panel is part of the state Office of the Child Advocate and examines untimely and unexplained juvenile deaths.