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02-22-05 Minster school officials review policies after student suicide

By Margie Wuebker

  MINSTER -- Officials in the Minster Local Schools are reviewing events and policies surrounding the death of a high school senior last month.

  Superintendent Halver Belcher spoke of the "student death" during Monday night's school board meeting without mentioning Kurt Bergman by name.
  "Any time a critical incident occurs, a general review related to the incident is made to determine if any changes are needed or warranted," he said. "The administration is in the process of conducting that review."
  Bergman died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound the afternoon of Jan. 24. He apparently left school around lunchtime and wrote a letter to his parents before using a handgun. The young man's body was found in the basement of his home by a Minster police officer investigating a 911 call hangup at the address.
  The matter of a possible policy change also surfaced in the meeting when school district residents were given the opportunity to make comments.  Susan Hogenkamp suggested the board look into the matter of calling parents when a student is summoned to the principal's office and comments are made in relation to law enforcement notification. As a concerned parent, she voiced a desire to know what was taking place in the event one of her children faced a similar situation.
  "We are reviewing what worked well in any kind of situation and any addition or amendment that could make it better in the future," Belcher quickly replied.
  Board member Ted Beckman responded to Hogenkamp's comments by saying "We are still involved in investigation and review. We have to be careful about making blanket changes."
  Belcher also thanked and talked about evaluating the crisis team who responded in the wake of the tragedy. The team is comprised of representatives from the Auglaize County Educational Service Center, the school district and St. Augustine Catholic Church.
  Counselors were on hand five days providing assistance to high school students. In addition, representatives from the school's Employee Assistance Program were present for debriefing and assistance to staff and faculty during a Feb. 2 early dismissal in-service.
  "We will be having conversations with each of the groups involved to review the activities and the process," Belcher said. "This information will allow us to review our crisis plan and determine if we need to make any revisions to that plan."
  Guidance counselors are in the process of determining any additional activities the district might want to pursue in relation to students. Additionally, officials will determine what type of additional activities could be provided for parents in the school district.
  In other action, the board met in executive session to discuss the employment and compensation of a public employee. No action was taken following the closed-door session.


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