By Brandon HENSLEY
The MacDonald Auditorium’s lower section at CV High School was mostly full Wednesday evening, Feb. 22 with concerned parents seeking help on how to deal with the recent suicide of student Drew Ferraro, and how to talk to their kids about it as well.
With some CV faculty and GUSD Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan present, Rev. Alice Parson Zulli from Glendale Adventist Medical Center spoke in front of the audience about the coping process from suicide.
“This whole community has suffered a loss of a child. And your children have suffered as well,” said Zulli, whose own father committed suicide when she was 12.
She had two papers – one green and one blue – that were handed out as parents walked into the lobby. The green paper was titled “Why Suicide?” It went over reasons why people make such a choice, and encouraged those who grieve to talk about it with others. She said holding in emotions can be unhealthy, that it is better to see that loved one’s life as a whole story, rather than focus on just how they died.
“The whole story about this child is not how he died,” Zulli said of Drew, who jumped to his death from the roof of one the school’s buildings Feb. 10 during the lunch hour.
The other handout gave steps to overcoming a public tragedy. One step Zulli stressed was creating a narrative that made sense, which includes being honest with kids.
“Don’t ever lie to them because they will know the truth,” Zulli said.
She also advised adapting creative ways to help kids grieve and move back into a sense of normalcy. Besides the theme of acceptance, Zulli stressed to the parents to not blame themselves in a tragedy like this or let their kids blame themselves. Suicide is an act done by someone that can’t be controlled by others, she said. After the grieving process comes perseverance.
“Bad things happen in this world, but we go on and do amazing things,” she said.
As the night went on, though, the mood shifted away from Zulli’s presentation and instead delved into the subject of bullying. A group of parents were selling black shirts in the lobby that endorsed zero tolerance.
“I wanted to start the shirts partially for this meeting so that people who were interested purchasing them and supporting anti-bullying could wear these shirts and kind of be in unity,” Peterson said.
Peterson and other parents stood up and spoke after Zulli and were adamant about the role bullying plays in deaths like Drew’s, and that CV has a bullying problem.
“It’s going to take something bigger to fight what so many people are ignoring, as far as I’m concerned,” Peterson said before the presentation.
GUSD officials and local law enforcement during their investigation have maintained that bullying was not a key factor in Drew’s decision. Drew left four suicide notes and they each did not mention anything about him being bullied, said L.A. Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina.
Drew’s parents, John and Deana, gave an interview to KCBS-TV recently and said after they discovered Drew’s journal, they believe he was bullied, which played a role in his death.
“We’re not privy to everything the sheriffs have uncovered in their investigation,” Sheehan told the audience Wednesday. “We have information that will never be made public, and I hope you respect that from a privacy standpoint for the family.”
Sheehan said he has worked in other school districts before and that this area had been the most pro-active in overcoming problems compared to the others.
“Everyone is going to react to this differently, and how you are feeling is appropriate for you … Throughout this, our [primary concerns are] our students, our staff, our family and reaching out and making sure we’re communicating all the resources that are available,” he said.
There will be a fundraiser at Leo’s All Star Bar and Grill, located on Honolulu Avenue, on March 4, according to CV parent Aly Wilson. That day will include a battle of the bands and a silent auction. Another event is being scheduled for April.
Rev. Alice Parsons Zulli can be reached at (818) 409-8008.