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On Education: Drew's story should never have been written

January 10, 2013|By Megan O'Neil

An autopsy report is a difficult read.

So, too, was poring through a lawsuit filed against the Glendale Unified School District in December by the family of Drew Ferraro, a 15-year-old Crescenta Valley High School student who committed suicide one year ago next month.

It is a story about a kid who loved music but could no longer find refuge in it. It is a story about someone with a flair for practical jokes, but whose own laughter had ceased. It is the story of a drowning, despite the lifeboats floating all around.

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Starting in fall 2010, Drew was the target of sustained harassment by multiple unnamed classmates, the lawsuit alleges. It included verbal taunts, physical altercations, cyber-bullying and other means of intimidation.

In January 2011, Drew’s father, John Ferraro, and his older sister, Desiree Ferraro, filed separate reports with Crescenta Valley High School. According to the lawsuit the problems continued, and in May 2011 Drew was involved in two fights in which he was struck in the face.

His grades suffered. He slept for extended periods of time. He resisted going to school. He was dismissed from the football team.

In fall 2011, Drew’s mother read text messages on his phone that alluded to suicide, according to the lawsuit. His parents had him assessed by mental health professionals and he was diagnosed with depression. All the while, school officials failed to take appropriate action to deter the malicious behavior of Drew’s assailants and to keep his family sufficiently updated, despite multiple communications from the Ferraros urging that they do so, the lawsuit alleges.

To be clear, this is the Ferraros’ description of the events. The lawsuit does nothing to resolve disparate claims about what might have prompted Drew’s suicide. District administrators and law enforcement officials maintain that they do not believe bullying was a factor.

An attorney for the Ferraros said Tuesday he had seen communications between the family and school officials regarding harassment in the months leading up to Drew’s death, but declined to make them public. The family also intends to keep the suicide notes private, he said.

Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan declined to comment.

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