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Yearbook policy to be reviewed in Menahga

Peggy Havnes, who lost her son to suicide, urged a cautious approach. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Menahga School Board members reached out to parents and students Monday night, inviting them to be part of the process to develop policies surrounding yearbook content.

Peggy Havnes, mother of Kyle Kenyon, who committed suicide earlier this year, spoke to the Menahga School Board at its Monday meeting on behalf of a group of students and parents who would like to have a memorial page for her son included in the yearbook. Kyle would have graduated with the class of 2013.

Administrators initially said no to including a memorial page for Kyle. Students, parents and other members of the community took the issue to media through Facebook. The issue made statewide and national news.

"I think we're all on a similar mission here," Havnes said. "But we have different approaches. We're concerned about the students in this district and we want to address this matter with caution."

"Contagion is something we're all worried about, as parents, as school administration, school board members. We're all worried about it ... Suicide is a very serious matter. It's usually not talked about but I'm here to talk about it."

Havnes said she is still grieving her son's death just as students are grieving their classmate.

"We want to remember him for who he was, not for how he died," she added.

Havnes provided board members with information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She wants parents and students to be part of an open discussion about suicide prevention. She also asked board members to consider including a memorial page for Kyle in the yearbook.

Immediately after the issue had been taken to Facebook and local and state media, Superintendent Mary Klamm had made a statement about the administration's decision.

"We made the decisions based on what we felt was best for our students and what research says is best practice," Klamm said. "Senior class advisers had been working with the seniors to determine options to the memorial page - but we were taking baby steps and the Facebook/media event made us take a leap that we weren't prepared for."

At Monday night's meeting, school board chairman Durwin Tomperi recommended that the board develop a subcommittee to address yearbook policy. Other board members were in agreement and want the subcommittee to include students, community members, staff and board members.

Those interested in being part of the subcommittee are asked to contact Superintendent Klamm.

Menahga's high school principal, Dan Stifter, has also worked to bring in a Crisis Line Prevention presentation by Northern Pines counselors on Monday, Nov. 12. Counselors will be available to meet with students throughout the day.

He has also asked counselors if it would be possible to have a community program some evening as well. Stifter said a date hasn't been finalized for a community program but counselors seemed interested.

The subcommittee will meet in the next week or two and come up with a recommendation for the school board's finance and policy committee, which meets Thursday, Nov. 15. That committee will in turn make a recommendation to the full school board Monday, Nov. 19.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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