Maries R-2 takes action against suicide, bullying through Meier Foundation programming, ‘whole student’ survey

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 5/6/21

Suicide prevention and anti-bullying sessions are being planned and implemented by Belle High School (BHS) Principal Garrett Haslag and Bland Middle School Principal Denise Baldwin.

“This …

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Maries R-2 takes action against suicide, bullying through Meier Foundation programming, ‘whole student’ survey

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Suicide prevention and anti-bullying sessions are being planned and implemented by Belle High School (BHS) Principal Garrett Haslag and Bland Middle School Principal Denise Baldwin.

“This week we are implementing more bullying prevention and suicide prevention programs,” Haslag told the board of education on April 27. “There have been issues in communities surrounding us.”

The month of April has been difficult for surrounding districts as Osage County R-2 in Linn grapples with a bullying situation in the public eye, Gasconade R-2 in Owensville is confronted with its first student suicide in more than 20 years, and Maries R-1 is in mourning following the loss of a middle school student who accidentally ended his own life.

Baldwin echoed the sentiment.

“We started our anti-bullying campaign and have a video from the Megan Meier Foundation, the young girl who committed suicide after she was cyberbullied by an adult,” Baldwin said. “We are at the age to be kind to ourselves and others.”

Baldwin commented late last week that they will be going over materials on both subjects over the next three weeks during the Tuesday and Thursday advisory classes. At the end of both presentations, the class will watch videos from various teen foundations.

“I have lesson plans and curriculum and next year we will do our own thing,” Baldwin said. “We are really trying to make a big impression about how important it is. It is hard in the middle school, and we are trying as hard as we can.”

Baldwin left the April 27 meeting early to attend the Drake Holzschuh memorial service in Owensville. Holzschuh was a former student of hers when she was employed as a music teacher for the Gasconade R-2 School District two years ago.

“It is a pressing issue,” Baldwin acknowledged about suicide prevention and anti-bullying. “I went for the celebration of life for Drake and kids were running up to me, hugging me and crying and they just needed something to be a stable, constant.”

Baldwin said the biggest thing in those situations is to speak out.

“Never suffer in silence,” she said. “It’s ok. We don’t know until it’s someone we know. Now it impacts the community because we never thought that student could be suffering like that.”

The loss has been felt not just in the Gasconade County R-2 community, but the Maries R-2 community as well.

“It’s humbling that the passing of a young child could affect two communities,” Baldwin said. “You can put the word out and do our best to refresh ourselves but at the end of the day it’s a change of mindset for children and we hope something sticks. These kinds of things need to be refreshed more than they do and (Lenice Basham, superintendent of Maries R-2) is a trooper for that. You don’t know how those words stick and how important it is that we choose those words kindly.”

Baldwin said many will ask why they are doing these refreshers, but really, why not?

“Pay attention to those subtle changes in others,” she said. “There is power in words if they are used right to build them up.”

Baldwin was an Owensville Middle School teacher for nine years before becoming the Bland Middle School principal, but she says when she comes back, the children still know her.

“The best thing we can do in education is to make connections with those students,” she said.

Baldwin said she will be in the classrooms during the suicide prevention and anti-bullying classes to watch the students’ expressions and get a feel for the class. After future lessons, students will be able to take a Social-Emotional Behavior Assessment survey, a program Baldwin recently purchased for next year to help gauge students’ emotional and mental wellness as well as their educational understanding.

“That way we can study the data and the indicators,” Baldwin said, adding that it is part of the district’s “whole student” approach.

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