Students express anger, sorrow as they search for answers in NNHS students’ deaths


Photo by Chris Kohley

In an extraordinary move, NNHS administrators changed the regular First Class meetings into a building-wide soul search among students and staff in the wake of the death of a student.

A freshman boy committed suicide Monday, Naperville police confirmed. In January, a junior boy passed away suddenly. NNHS has been no stranger to nightly news or emergency vehicles this year. Wednesday afternoon, a 17-year-old male in North-affiliated clothing went missing but has since been found, Naperville police said.  

Emotions have been running high since an email was sent Monday night informing NNHS families of the second student death this semester. On social media, students expressed sadness, anger, and frustration. Principal Stephanie Posey hopes reactions can be used in a positive and productive manner.

“The email, social media, phone and personal responses, especially viewed through the stages of grief, is to be expected,” Posey said. “I truly embrace receiving input and feedback from staff, students, and the community as long as it can be viewed as constructive and solution-driven.”

On a typical month, First Class is a student-led period of social-emotional learning activities. Wednesday during the teacher-led First Class time, a video was shown featuring Posey and several teachers sending messages of encouragement and support towards students. Some teachers read a short speech that sympathized with students’ differing reactions and explained coping mechanisms for stress.

Students had varying opinions on the administration’s approach. Tom Patsavas, NNHS junior, believes the time set aside for discussion was beneficial for the student body.

“The First Class discussion went really well,” said Patsavas. “A lot of people gave input on how they felt about the current school system and how the process is going. I hope it will get back to the administration system.”

Senior Maddy Thorne appreciated her teacher’s openness with her students.

“My personal experience went very well with Mrs. Berg,” Thorne said. “She was choosing to be vulnerable and to be heard by every student. I think that’s something that a lot of teachers in our building struggle with and need to work on… going out of their way to make sure they are open to their students and vulnerable.”

Senior Jack Wills was grateful for the discussion, but had some suggestions for the video.

“I think that First Class itself was very effective,” Wills said. “I just think they’re pre-prepared. Stuff just came off as just cookie-cutter and bad. With the video, I think they should have voices of students who have gone through struggles, talking about what it is like.”

During the First Class time, students took a survey with questions about the strengths and weakness of NNHS and what students and staff can do to help the school community cope. Some students wanted more time talking instead of filling out an impersonal online survey. Junior Mira Coy felt this way initially, but was satisfied with the discussion her class had afterwards.

“We talked about 30 minutes into the next period and our teacher gave no indication of annoyance or wanting to start class,” Coy said. “Our teacher provided insightful answers to many questions that we had and did an amazing job considering teachers aren’t trained the way social workers are.”

What should North do moving forward? Junior Ella Bochenski hopes to see more attention toward these troublesome issues.

“[The solution] is to encourage the faculty to reach out to students and be more personable,” Bochenski said. “I know after the announcement [made Tuesday morning], my teacher didn’t even recognize that it happened and just kind of rushed over it. They definitely to pay more attention to it and what happened.”

Posey is encouraged by the results of today’s discussions and looks forward to the future.

“The responses that I have received have been both positive and negative regarding the effort and climate at Naperville North High School and it exemplifies the passion and love that students, staff, and the community have for their school and community,” Posey said. “This is not simply a school issue and should not be portrayed as such.”

Any student who needs help or knows someone who needs help or attention may call the DuPage County Health Department Crisis Intervention Unit 24-hour hotline at 630-627-1700. Students can also submit an anonymous form with concerns to Tip203. Director of Student Services Jeffery Farson said students in need may call him at 630-420-6410.

This story was reported by Will Trubshaw and Julia Shanahan.