That family of 14-year-old Mikyla Wren, an Illinois teenager who committed suicide last year, has sued her former high school, alleging that the school failed to follow Illinois law when it comes to responding to suicidal teenagers, The Chicago Tribune is reporting.
At issue is whether or not Mundelein High School in suburban Chicago properly followed “Ann Marie’s Law,” which required Illinois schools to put protocols in place to address teenagers who may be at risk for suicide, as well as update their suicide awareness and prevention plans before the 2015-16 school year started. According to the family’s lawsuit, Mundelein High School’s suicide prevention plan was last updated during the Clinton administration – 1999, to be specific.
Attorney Steven Glink, speaking on behalf of the Wren family, alleges that the school did not follow the law and that failure was a factor in Mikyla’s suicide.
“This is the postcard example of why this law was enacted in the first place. The schools are with these kids eight hours today. Mom did what she could, but she was completely in the dark.”
On October 26, 2015, Mikyla Wren, at the time a freshman at Mundelein High School, committed suicide, according to the Chicago Daily Herald. Five days earlier, she had spoken to a suicide counselor; six days before that, the school had contacted Mikyla’s mother about that fact that her daughter might have been entertaining the idea of suicide. School officials had found that the teen had used the word “suicide” on a school-issued Chromebook.
Though school officials had clearly made an effort to respond to the fact that Mikyla was potentially at risk for suicide, the lawsuit alleges that officials failed to properly provide follow-up care to the young lady and her family.
Following protocol, Dean of Students Samantha Smigielski contacted Mikyla’s mother, Kelly Wren, when Mikyla’s Chromebook was flagged for containing the word “suicide.” Mrs. Wren then asked the school for more help in determining whether or not Mikyla was actually at-risk, or whether she was just expressing herself. The school promised to send in a social worker to reach out to Mikyla on the next school day – which would have been the following Monday. No such meeting ever took place; however. Instead, the social worker merely “made an introduction to Mikyla and offered support as needed,” but never informed Mrs. Wren that the conversation had taken place.
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The Wren family would not hear from Mundelein High School officials again until after Mikyla’s suicide, the lawsuit alleges.
Further, according to the lawsuit, District 120 “stonewalled” the family when they started asking questions. To this day, they still don’t know any of the details of conversations Mikyla had with the school counselor or social worker. Further, they have yet to see the essay in which Mikyla used the word “suicide.”
In a statement, Mikyla’s grandfather, Thomas Hannigan, said that the family doesn’t want any money from the school beyond attorneys’ fees and court costs. Instead, the family hopes that, by forcing Mundelein High School to comply with Illinois law, another suicide like Mikyla’s might be prevented.
“Our family had been through a tragedy with the death of our granddaughter, and we wanted to reach out so that if there was anything that could be done in the future to learn from our mutual experience, both the school district’s and the family’s, to help prevent a future suicide.”
“Ann Marie’s Law” was named for AnnMarie Blaha, an 11-year-old girl from the Chicago Suburb of Orland Park, who committed suicide in 2013.
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