Monday, September 29, 2008

Grief counselors available at High School

After the moving tribute to the life of Matt Christopher at First Church on Saturday, there was some lingering doubt among parents of Middletown high school students, that grief counselors had not been available at the school after the news of Christopher's death began to spread among his friends and among other students. As reported Sunday in the Middletown Press, Saturday's memorial tribute honored "the 18-year-old Middletown High School student who lost his life to a heroin overdose Sept. 3."

According to Middletown High School Principal Robert Fontaine, grief counseling protocol immediately went into effect after notification by Middletown Police on September 4.

"Grief counselors are assigned depending on the level of student response," Fontaine said in a phone interview today. "Sometimes it will be handled by high school counselors, and at other times we will seek additional assistance from the district."

Because of family privacy concerns, a general announcement was not made. Instead an email was sent to teachers advising them to notify students, and to alert teachers that they should be aware of potential response by students.

Asked if the incident could provide a "teachable moment" for students, Fontaine expressed additional concerns about family privacy and confidentiality.

"It's a private moment. And usually, the teachable moment is generated through the family," Fontaine said. "For example, we have had speakers from Mothers Against Drunk Driving address students. In this case, we haven't been contacted by the parents."

Students seeking counseling should speak with their teachers, or talk to school counseling staff.

Donations in Matt Christopher's memory can be made to Matt Christopher Scholarship, Bushy Hill Nature Center, PO Box 577, Ivoryton, CT 06442 or Green Street Art Center, 51 Green Street, Middletown, CT 06457.

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