New school suicide prevention policy in Wyoming

CROOK COUNTY, Wyo. (KOTA TV) - The wording for a new suicide prevention policy in Wyoming is turning some parents' heads.

A student shuts his locker at Sundance High School in Crook County, Wyoming. (KOTA TV).

Crook County lost two teenage boys, 13-year-old Joshua Donnell and 16-year-old Ruhel Stewart, to suicide just seven months apart and two lives too many.

"We keep it a secret. And I know how that feels when my son started having suicidal thoughts, I was embarrassed. You feel like there's something wrong with us. There's something wrong with him," said Joshua's father Douglas Donnell.

There's nothing wrong with being diagnosed with clinical depression, it's just as Donnell put it: "we don't talk about it."

To help with suicide prevention, Crook County School District is implementing a new policy.

However, the line about "students who are experiencing serious depression are unable to benefit fully from the educational program of the school" is concerning to parents.

Shannon Stewart and Donnell said the wording makes it seem like a school can easily kick out students who have depression.

But, that's not the case.

"It doesn't mean we're going to take them out of it and it doesn't mean that can't somewhat benefit. It means they need additional support. This policy provides these guidelines on what support to provide to them so they can be successful," said Crook County School District Superintendent Mark Broderson.

Broderson said this year they've added two more guidance counselors to the district's staff. Now, all five schools in Crook County have one.

Though it's a step in the right direction, Stewart said she wants to see more postvention (intervention conducted after a suicide) opportunities for students to grieve after a suicide loss and wants more psychiatric counselors to be available.

"Even just a counselor that can bounce through the district and like I say, anybody, two guidance counselors are great. But I think we need to start bringing in someone that's not just going to help them with picking classes and that," said Ruhel's mother, Shannon Stewart.

"It's not just a school problem. It's a community problem and a society problem," said Broderson.

Douglas Donnell quit his job as a semi-truck driver to get certified as a suicide prevention instructor.