Community turns out by the hundreds to funeral service of CV High School sophomore who jumped to his death.
By Mary O’KEEFE
Family, friends and the community said goodbye to 15-year-old Drew Ferraro at his memorial Wednesday. The Crescenta Valley High School sophomore was known for his sweet smile, his giggle and his athleticism.
Friends said he was smiling on Friday just before fourth period; no one had any idea what their friend was planning on doing just minutes before lunch that day.
Drew climbed to the roof of the 2000 building, took a running start and jumped, said Lt. John Corina, a detective with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. Homicide Unit. Drew’s body fell into the school’s quad area.
The incident occurred just before lunch, around 12:19 p.m., when several students were in the quad. Others were moving from their classrooms to their lockers, getting ready to leave for lunch. Some students reported seeing the student jump, others the aftermath and still others reported hearing his body hit the ground.
Drew had died and many students had witnessed his death.
“Students were immediately evacuated,” said Steven Frasher, Glendale Unified School District spokesman.
Students were at first evacuated to different areas throughout the campus in an effort to keep them away from the quad. Some walked out to the front lawn, others to the basketball court near the gym and still others were held in classrooms. Eventually they were all taken to the football field.
Almost immediately parents began arriving at the school, getting text messages and phone calls from worried and scared children. Most parents only knew something had happened to a student. Most thought it was a girl because that is what the kids were telling them.
Parents came to the front office as staff began dealing with nonstop phone calls. There was confusion as to how to release the children and where parents were supposed to go. They were given little information, just to go to the football field for their child, as the secretary ushered parents from the office and the school was locked down.
A line of parents snaked around the parking lot on Ramsdell Avenue just outside the football field, continuing north toward the MacDonald Auditorium. Student release forms needed to be filled out. There was still more confusion as to when students could be released without a parent’s consent. It was decided that all students who had not been released to their parent would be released at 3 p.m., the normal time for school dismissal.
PTSA members arrived almost immediately to help distribute forms, answer what questions they could and keep the line of parents moving.
As students were released to their parent or guardian, many stayed near the school not wanting to leave. They appeared to just want to stay close to each other. Students looked at their phones, going through Facebook and texting, continuing to get and send information. The names of possible victims were being sent back and forth, then Drew’s name came up.
Students looked at their phone, then at each other. They asked one another if they knew the boy; it appeared that many did. The pain of the tragedy grew as the effects of recognition rippled from student to student.
Almost immediately the question of bullying was talked about, some saying Drew had been bullied in the past and others saying he was still being bullied.
Delivering the News
Helicopters buzzed overheard, news crews began to arrive and cameras came out. Crying students, trying to find a quiet place to grieve, became a game of hide and seek as reporters and camera crews were desperate to get any word of what happened. The district had not yet released a statement as they were trying to assess the incident and get hold of the parents.
Principal Michele Doll made a most difficult PhoneEd call to CVHS parents. The first call explained that there was an “isolated incident” with a boy who fell from the 2000 building. Parents were told where to pick up their children.
A second PhoneEd was more specific. “We did have a 10th grader, [a] male student who died from a fall. All indications indicate it was a suicide.”
The district used the word “fall;” Lt. Corina said the student “jumped.”
In a press conference held about 3 p.m., Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan explained the district was not able to comment on the investigation and instead let Corina handle any questions.
The school was closed for the three-day holiday. Sheehan asked parents to take an “active role” with their child’s reaction to the death.
“We will have site counselors available at the school on Tuesday morning,” he said.
Arrangements were made at Verdugo Hills Hospital for any CVHS student who needed to speak to a counselor before Tuesday.
Friday night, several churches opened their doors to help kids deal with the tragedy. About 100 students came to The Fire House, a youth center, where adult volunteers, Rev. Beverly Craig, Rev. Bryan Jones, members of CV Sheriff’s Station and family counselor Pam Erdman were available to listen to the students. Some of the kids talked to the adults, but most simply wanted to talk to each other.
A prayer circle was started at CVHS late Friday night. Students came to the school and slowly walked into an ever-growing circle. A memorial of flowers, candles and pictures of Drew was placed at the bench just outside the front door of the school.
In Loving Memory
Resources Abound to Assist with Crisis Management
Parents are advised to be proactive in helping students recovery from Friday’s trauma at CVHS
By Timithie NORMAN
Friday’s suicide at the Crescenta Valley High School campus left the community in shock. Students who witnessed Drew Ferraro’s very public fall, as well as his friends, family and acquaintances, have all been left wondering why and trying to understand the tragedy that took place.
As early as Friday afternoon just after the incident, the Glendale Unified School District Crisis Team was on campus and according to Dr. Richard Sheehan, superintendent of schools, the team will remain present as long as needed. Parents also play a critical role in supporting their children in handling the emotion of such a traumatic event.
“It’s very important that parents communicate with their students,” Dr. Sheehan said during a press conference Friday afternoon. “We encourage parents to take an active role in communicating with their child to ensure their child is ok.”
CVHS referred students to Verdugo Hills Hospital for free mental health treatment over the three-day weekend. The school’s website currently provides contact information for three crisis hotlines and several informational flyers to assist parents and students with coping with grief and loss. Joan Cochran, executive director of the Center for Grief and Loss for Children and Teens at Hathaway Sycamore Child and Family Services, recommends overlaying bad thoughts with good ones.
“Parents can help with guiding imagery,” Cochran said as she spoke to a group of approximately 40 students and parents who assembled at The Fire House youth center Tuesday evening to learn practical steps to move forward through the trauma. “Talk through good times and then help replace troubled thoughts with good ones.”
Cochran says the most important thing is for students and parents to take care of themselves.
“Don’t focus on Drew, but on you,” she said. “Reflect on your own healing. Nothing will make you feel instantly better; the only way is through the grief, not around it.”
According to the American Hospice Foundation, parents should watch for signals that warn of complications in handling the feelings associated with grief and loss. Professional help should be sought if teens experience prolonged withdrawal from school activities and friends, flashbacks, spontaneous crying, use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, changes in physical health or other extreme reactions.
“We don’t know why somebody dies,” Cochran said. “We do know that this was unusual as many people were there. If you feel bad, you need to see a counselor.”
Cochran directed students and parents to the Didi Hirsche Mental Health Services Glendale Center. The Center is located at 1540 East Colorado Street in Glendale and can be reached at (818) 244-7257.
Community Reaches Out
The community began rallying around the family and the school, wanting to do what they could to support and help.
Janine Sabin, a CVHS alum, came up with the idea of making “I Care” cards for the students and family. She posted the idea on Facebook and word spread. Rosemont Middle School Principal Cynthia Livingston took the post and sent it out to her school’s parents. Other organizations followed and by Tuesday morning there were over 7,000 cards, homemade and store bought, delivered to the school. On every student’s locker was a sticky note that read, “You Are Loved.”
“[On Tuesday] we got almost 2,000 [“I Care” cards] for the family,” said Amy Jahnke, another CVHS alum who helped with the “I Care” project.
Jahnke knows a little about what the students are dealing with as they go back to school in the wake of this tragedy. She was a student at CVHS when Berlyn Cosman was shot and killed at an after prom party in 1991. Cosman’s death rocked the community and the students at the high school. Jahnke said the students at that time felt lost.
“I think we live in our CV bubble,” she said. “It is so incredibly shocking when something like this happens.”
LASD released more information concerning Drew’s death.
“It was a suicide,” Corina said. “He did leave a suicide note, which gave a reason. It had nothing to do with drugs, alcohol and bullying.”
But the stories of bullying continued.
At school on Tuesday, many of the students wore black in remembrance of Drew. Counselors from the Glendale district and other agencies, including Burbank, were on the campus. Frasher said many students took advantage of the counselors being there.
“We [had] over 40 counselors at the school,” Frasher said. “We want [the kids] to know we are here for them.”
On Wednesday, the students wore white as a sign of hope. Many missed school to attend Drew’s funeral.
Time to Heal
It was standing room only at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Tujunga. The day was a sad goodbye as well as a celebration of Drew’s life. Friends talked about how much fun they had together and how they would miss him.
And yet through it all, the concern about bullying was present.
When asked if Drew had ever reported bullying or if there was any information concerning incidents between him and other students, Frasher could not comment.
“By law, school districts cannot divulge anything that may or may not be in a student’s file,” he said.
Although the sheriff’s investigation is coming to an end – Corina is waiting on the final report from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office – the district is not done with the matter.
“We are investigating the incident,” said Mary Boger, GUSD school board member.
For now, the healing process continues. For the family, the LA Police Department continue their strong support. Drew’s dad is a LAPD officer. For students, site counselors will be at the school throughout the week. Students are encouraged to speak to counselors or their teachers if they need help.
Jahnke hopes that something positive can come out of this tragedy.
“Look at Prom Plus,” she said. “It is such a positive thing that benefits so many.”
Prom Plus was founded as a result of Cosman’s murder. The organization offers a supervised after prom party for seniors and their guests held at the Crescenta Cañada YMCA.
“I still think of Berlyn so many times. Her [memory] is still there. When prom comes around I always think of her,” she said.
Jahnke has some advice for CVHS students who are going back to school.
“It think it would good to just be nice to each other. High school kids can be mean,” she said. “I remember when we went back [after Berlyn’s murder]. Everybody was really nice to each other. Everybody felt connected in a weird way. I think I [would tell kids] to think before you speak and don’t be afraid to reach out to other people who are lonely.”