School resumes at Davidson after suicide

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — Long-term plans weren’t a top priority last week at Davidson Middle School. Students returned on Monday to a school where teachers and administrators hoped to guide the children back toward a sense of normalcy after a student’s suicide March 21.

“Everyone was on edge a little,” Southgate Community Schools Supt. William Grusecki said.

The district’s top administrator hadn’t planned on spending every day last week at the school before Friday’s spring recess began. Principal Dennis Kemp took ill early last week, and Grusecki stepped in to help supervise the morning searches.

Student bags and backpacks were looked through and wanded with a metal detector in the wake of 13-year-old Tyler Nichols’ gunshot suicide.

The eighth-grade student’s death stunned the community and school. Administrators struggled to understand what drove the boy to take is own life. Grusecki said there had been no indication that he was bullied, or felt threatened.

By all appearances Nichols was a fairly popular, well-liked student, but a note was said to have indicated that the drama of early teenage life proved too much.

“From what we’ve gathered he’d made his mind up to take his own life,” Grusecki said. “He didn’t want to make any other statement than that. Nobody understands why he needed to do it in school.”

Grusecki said that Nichols’ use of a .40-caliber Glock handgun when he took his own life in an upstairs restroom prompted officials to begin a doorway search of students. There were some objections by parents, but most seemed to accept the procedure.

“They’ve gone very well,” Grusecki said of trafficking students through the doors, a process that will continue indefinitely, although Grusecki said there are no long-term plans to dramatically adjust security procedures at Davidson or any other school in the district.

The timing of spring break offered a welcome getaway, Grusecki said. When classes resume on April 8 the same process used last week will continue, although not forever.

“On that day we’ll do what we’ve been doing,” Grusecki said. “Then back off a little bit. Security will be more random so it’s not as predictable.”

Opinions varied in the community, reflected in social media comments that it was time for permanent metal detectors or an increased police presence at schools. Grusecki said he didn’t believe a majority favored going in that direction.

“They don’t want that,” Grusecki said of conversations with other administrators and local parents. “They don’t want public schools to be like a prison.”

Rather than emphasize security — and there were additional police officers on campus early last week — Grusecki will continue indefinitely, although Grusecki said there are no long-term plans to dramatically adjust security procedures at Davidson or any other school in the district.

The timing of spring break offered a welcome getaway, Grusecki said. When classes resume on April 8 the same process used last week will continue, although not forever.

“On that day we’ll do what we’ve been doing,” Grusecki said. “Then back off a little bit. Security will be more random so it’s not as predictable.”

Opinions varied in the community, reflected in social media comments that it was time for permanent metal detectors or an increased police presence at schools. Grusecki said he didn’t believe a majority favored going in that direction.

“They don’t want that,” Grusecki said of conversations with other administrators and local parents. “They don’t want
public schools to be like a prison.”

Rather than emphasize security — and there were additional police officers on campus early last week — Grusecki said a priority was given to having grief counselors available. A host of volunteers from throughout Downriver were available last week if students or staff wanted to talk, and Grusecki said that will continue as long as needed.

“A couple hundred” people sought counseling on Monday, the day Nichols was laid to rest at a private funeral, with fewer seeking assistance each day as the school offered the comfort of a familiar routine.

“We couldn’t ask for things to go better, given the circumstances,” Grusecki said. “The kids have been great. Very cooperative, upbeat and friendly. They’re starting to get back to normal.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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