At Woodson high, suicide numbers too high to ignore

Parents, teachers and students at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax have been reeling in recent months after two students died from apparent suicide within days of each other. The two deaths are among six suspected suicides that have occurred among students at the school since 2011. No other school in Fairfax County has had such a high rate of suicide among its teen students.

The parents of five of the six teens spoke to The Washington Post about how the deaths of their children have changed their own lives. The Post generally does not identify youths suspected of killing themselves, but the families agreed to speak about their children.

Other parents in the school community are searching for answers for why Woodson appears to have a higher rate than do other schools.

Compared with other states, Virginia’s youth suicide rate of 4.9 per 100,000 is slightly behind the nationwide average of 5.1 per 100,000 among children aged 13-18.

Below is a breakdown of the statistics within Virginia and Fairfax County for the past five years for suicide among children aged 10-19. From the Virginia Department of Health:

2009: 43 suicide deaths in Virginia for a rate of 4.2 per 100,000, four of which occurred in Fairfax County for a rate of 3.0 per 100,000.

2010: 45 suicide deaths in the state for a rate of 4.2, seven of which occurred in Fairfax County for a rate of 5.0 per 100,000.

2011: 52 suicide deaths in the state for a rate of 4.9, four of which occurred in Fairfax County for a rate of 2.8. One of the four in Fairfax was Woodson student Nick Stuban.

2012: 47 suicide deaths in the state for a rate of 4.4, six of which occurred in Fairfax County for a rate of 4.2. Two of the deaths in Fairfax were of Woodson students Cameron Kilby and Bryan Glenn.

2013: 48 suicide deaths in the state, 10 of which occurred in Fairfax County. One of those deaths was of Woodson student Ethan Griffith. (The rates have not been calculated yet as the census data is incomplete for 2013.)

In 2014, two Fairfax County high schools account for four suicide deaths. In both instances, teen boys died a day apart. The first two suicides involved students associated with Langley High School in February. The second two suicides occurred later in the month and involved two students from Woodson, Jack Chen and another teen boy, who has not been identified publicly.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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