NJ high school agrees to chair for teen student lost to suicide
A North Jersey high school will be leaving a seat empty at its commencement ceremony to honor a class member who committed suicide before his 17th birthday last year.
The family of Jordan Falco had asked administrators at Northern Valley Demarest High School to "save a seat" at graduation for the late student, who died during his junior year in April 2020 after a struggle with depression, his mother told NBC New York.
The school first offered to observe a moment of silence for both Falco and a teacher who also died during the past year, according to the same report.
Schools Superintendent Joseph Santana initially told NBC New York that they believed a moment of silence was a better way to remember the teen while respecting "the emotional well-being of the other students who may be triggered by other types of memorial activities."
After an online petition garnered over 5,000 signatures the school has changed course and will put out an empty chair, according to the petition.
Santana confirmed the revised decision in an email to New Jersey 101.5.
"After careful consideration and more input from traumatic loss professionals, parents, students, and staff, the district has decided to incorporate more activities into the graduation ceremony to honor Jordan," Santana said.
"These situations are not easy to work through and we thank the community for their input, patience, and understanding," he continued. "I thank our staff for taking the time to listen and understand the various perspectives related to this issue."
The superintendent earlier told the Daily Voice the school has also honored Falco with a swing dedicated in his memory and a "blue and white day" in the days after his death.
A candle light vigil last spring was broken up by police due to coronavirus crowd gathering limits, according to Falco's online obituary.
If you feel you or someone you know may be in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, or the NJ Hopeline, 1-855-654-6735