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Counselors on hand at Denver elementary school after 4th grader's suicide

Posted at 12:44 PM, Aug 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-28 19:00:03-04

DENVER – Psychologists and social workers from Denver Public Schools were on-hand at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School Monday morning after a fourth-grade student died as a result of suicide late last week.

The Denver County Coroner’s Office on Monday confirmed the boy, 9-year-old Jamel Myles, died as a result of hanging shortly after 11 p.m. on Thursday.

On Friday, Shoemaker Elementary School Principal Christine Fleming sent a letter home to families at the school that Myles had died. Fleming did not discuss the manner by which the boy had died, but shared a guide showing signs of stress that students might be showing in the wake of the boy’s death.

“Our thoughts are with the student’s family at this time,” Fleming wrote. “We will continue to process this sad news as a school community, and again, please feel free to reach out as needed for ongoing support.”

The boy's mother, Leia Pierce, told the Denver Post Myles took his own life after being bullied. He came out as gay this summer and wore fake fingernails on the first day of school, she said.

Denver Public Schools spokesman Will Jones said Fleming did not name the boy or the manner of his death out of respect for the family’s privacy.

In addition to having crisis team members on hand Monday, there is also a phone line and a room at the elementary school set up for families who have questions about the incident.

Jones said fourth- and fifth-grade teachers would be calling the families of their students at the end of the day Monday to check on the kids and that additional support would be available if necessary.

“We are deeply committed to our students’ well-being. That commitment is at the core for all educators in DPS, which is a safe and welcoming environment,” Jones said in a statement Monday. “Our priority right now is to look at all the concerns raised in this case, to keep our students safe and to do a fair and thorough review of the facts surrounding this tragic loss.”

The family of Myles could not be reached Monday.

Colorado’s suicide hotline, Colorado Crisis Services, can be reached at 1-844-493-8255 or by texting “TALK” to 38255.

DPS spokesman Will Jones sent another statement regarding the incident Tuesday afternoon:

"Our deepest sympathies go out to Jamel Myles’ family and the entire Shoemaker community. We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss.

"At DPS, we are deeply committed to ensuring that all members of our school community are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or transgender status. It is critical that our students receive all the supports they need to learn and thrive in a safe and welcoming environment. Our policies and practices reflect this commitment to ensuring that our LGBTQ+ students can pursue their education with dignity and joy — from training to prevent and stop bullying to policies and guidance materials that fully respect gender identity (including use of preferred pronouns and restrooms).

"We also know, however, that we as a society have a long way to go to ensure that no child ever is bullied or treated with disrespect because of their self-identification.  All of us – parents, educators, and fellow students – need to lead the way in setting an example of love, respect and dignity for our LGBTQ+ youth.

 "As we mourn Jamel’s passing, let us all come together to celebrate the light that Jamel brought into the world and ensure that all of Jamel’s friends and peers throughout our community continue to shine their lights brightly."