The suicide of a seventh-grader on Monday has left many with unanswered questions and grieving hearts in Amherst and Mont Vernon.
Hundreds of residents lit candles outside of their homes Tuesday night in memory of Amherst Middle School student Donovan Krauss, SAU 39 Superintendent of Schools Adam Steel said.
In an online statement, Donovan’s mother bravely shared her son’s story, and urged others to hug their children tight each and every day.
“The unthinkable has happened. Our beautiful son Donovan took his own life (Monday). We are just in shock and disbelief,” Gwen Krauss of Mont Vernon wrote. “We didn’t see this coming at all. He has so many interests, hobbies and zest for life. How can a boy with such a big smile ever consider such a thing?”
She said Donovan left a short note indicating that he loved his family “so much,” but did not share any details about his suffering.
“We are left with so many questions,” Gwen Krauss said, thanking the community for its unwavering support.
John Schuttinger, assistant principal at Amherst Middle School, described Donovan as a creative, funny, sweet and kind child who was very genuine and honest.
“He enjoyed playing the drums. He had performed with his family and he took drum lessons as well,” said Schuttinger.
Donovan previously attended Mont Vernon Village School. Schuttinger said the tragedy is being felt across the entire school district.
“I think the most important message through all of this, especially with children who are possibly experiencing a loss for the first time, is letting them know that whatever feelings they are having is OK,” he said.
Steel said it is important for the community to know the facts, and provide fellow students the time to understand their feelings and ask for help.
“The biggest concern after a student has taken their own life and died by suicide, anytime that happens our primary concern is ensuring other students have the support they need to not make that same choice,” Steel said on Wednesday. “ … This is how we go forward. We are going to name it. We are going to call it what it is.”
The district is temporarily in a remote school setting until Jan. 19 when in-person schooling will resume for students who chose that option.
“That will be another change where we won’t see him physically in that space,” Schuttinger said of Donovan.
He said advice is being sought from the district’s crisis team on how to address the grief and ensure that every student has someone to talk with when necessary. Even in the remote setting, counselors are available for any students or staff who need to talk, share or express their feelings, he said.
An online fundraiser was created this week for the Krauss family, and in a short amount of time had already raised more than $16,000 to assist with funeral costs and other expenses.