Two juveniles’ deaths in recent weeks, one from Cortez and one from Dolores, are being investigated as probable suicides, according to the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office.
One death occurred in mid-October, and the other last week.
Montezuma County Undersheriff Jim Kingery said both are still under investigation and declined to release reports of the investigations. He said no firearms were involved in either death, and that both occurred off campus. One juvenile attended the classes in the Montezuma-Cortez district and the other attended classes in the Dolores district, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Dolores school officials have brought in additional counselors and psychologists to assist students and staff this week, said Superintendent Scott Cooper.
“On Monday, teachers will read a prepared statement to each class on the situation, and there will be a lot of extra counselors on hand,” Cooper said. “We are all very sad and are in a grieving state.”
Over the weekend, Dolores school officials emailed teachers and parents literature on suicide awareness and mental health resources. A notice of the student’s death was posted on the school website, and there will be updates on the school’s response in the days to come.
Montezuma-Cortez High School Principal Jason Wayman addressed the first death in a letter to parents dated Oct. 21. He said a district crisis counseling response team was at the school on Oct. 21, and administrators and counselors were available to answer questions and support students, parents and staff.
In the letter, Wayman encouraged parents to talk about the loss with their children, listen patiently and prepare to discuss the loss repeatedly. He said parents should model healthy mourning by discussing their feelings and create structure for their children so they experience stability.
Wayman said parents should expect the bereavement process to take months and years. He encouraged parents to help their children understand the event so they do not blame themselves or others.
He also encouraged parents to take advantage of school and community resources such as counseling and the Safe2Tell hotline, 1-877-542-SAFE.
The hotline encourages students to voice their concerns and take responsibility for keeping themselves and others safe.
“This is a tremendous loss for our school and community,” Wayman wrote. “It will take time and support to get through this very difficult situation.”
Journal reporter Jacob Klopfenstein contributed to this article.