NICE Superintendent Bryan DeAugustine says district will never be the same

He says the only way to move forward is together
The NICE school district is reeling after a young boy died by suicide at the school on Tuesday
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 7:55 AM EDT
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MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - NICE Community Schools Superintendent Bryan DeAugustine spoke with TV6′s Elizabeth Peterson Friday morning on the TV6 Morning News. The interview comes after a student at Aspen Ridge died by suicide on Tuesday.

Watch the full interview here.

The leader of NICE Community Schools said his district will never be the same after a student died by suicide at Aspen Ridge School.

Tuesday was not the first suicide this spring in the Upper Peninsula. There are a number of communities reeling and struggling with how to address what’s happening to our youth.

TV6 is not naming the young boy or going into the details of what happened out of respect for his family and their privacy.

Superintendent DeAugustine said the only way forward - the only way to get through - is together.

“You know as human beings our best bet is to reach out to each other and to help each other through these really tough times,” DeAugustine said. “We’ve continued to send the message that you know it’s not a sign of weakness to reach out and ask for help. It’s a sign of strength and so we’ve said over and over again – reach out for help when you need it, when you can – give someone else help – and together we’ll take this one step at a time as we heal.”

Grief counselors will be onsite at the schools through at least next week. DeAugustine said adults and kids have been utilizing the resources available, but it really is just a start to a very long and hard process that seems to offer more questions than solutions.

A big concern for parents is how will the school ensure this doesn’t happen in the future – that a gun does not end up on school property again.

“It’s going to take a long time to figure that out, and I know and have already heard that people are angry about that and don’t want to hear that but at the end of the day, I have to be honest about how this works,” said DeAugustine. “We’re going to need help in figuring this out, and it’s going to take us a long time to try and craft a way to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I think the key is to team together. I want to model the things I say – and I’m reaching out for help to try and find our way through this – it isn’t going to be solved by one person or even a small group – this is going to be a big team effort to try and get a handle on this.”

For now, it’s taking it day by day - addressing the needs of the district’s students, teachers, staff and families. It’s mourning the loss of a family member, friend and classmate, and it’s accepting that as a whole, we are failing.

“It certainly feels like a failure,” said DeAugustine. “I’ve said this a few times in the last 48 hours – my job is to lead us through this – to try and maintain my composure with what’s going on but as someone who’s devoted his life, his professional life to education – and I know it’s cliché to say, I love kids – not just my own kids, but kids in general. I’m just broken inside that this continues to happen, you know across the country – and has happened in my own district – it’s hard to wrap my head around that and maybe on the outside, I’m speaking here with you in a very measured way and trying to project a calm leadership, but yeah, you’re speaking with someone with a heart that’s broken in half.”

To answer that painful question of what’s next, NICE currently has two full time counselors and a social worker with the Marquette County Health Department. The district is in the process of hiring a third counselor.

In May, high school students are meeting with superintendents, principals, counselors and social workers across Marquette and Alger counties. It’s an opportunity for students to tell educators what they’re missing in regard to social media, suicide prevention, and bullying. It likely won’t provide all the answers, but it’s a small step in this growing crisis.

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