“DHS provides support, information in wake of DHS death”
Note: Unlike other news outlets, two other editors-in-chief and I decided against immediately publicizing a student suicide to give the family privacy. We voted to not reveal the student’s identity after visiting DartCenter.org and ReportingonSuicide.org. In addition, we conferred with our journalism advisor on how to report student deaths.
By Willa Moffatt, Isabella Ainsworth and Meghan Bobrowsky,
After learning of a Davis High student’s probable suicide Friday, the Davis school district enacted the first measures of its suicide prevention plan.
Director of Student Support Services Laura Juanitas said the district has been planning all weekend for the upcoming week.
“We have a well-developed [preventative] crisis plan,” Juanitas said.
“There will be a [six line] statement read in every second period class because not everyone has a first period,” she said.
If teachers do not feel comfortable reading the message, counselors will step in to do it.
All faculty, including school administrators, will be available to students. If a student needs to leave class, or wants to talk a counselor, they will be able to.
Teachers and students who had the deceased student in their classes will receive additional support. “There will be counselors in each of [his]classes [as well],” Juanitas said.
The district is also planning a parent-student night hosted in upcoming weeks to talk about ways of supporting students.
Juanitas emphasized the importance of recognizing signs a student is considering suicide.
She recommends that students speak up if they see anything on social media that concerns them. “Much of [a teen’s] life is on social media,” she said. So, Juanitas said, it’s important to loop somebody beyond the friend group into the situation.
She also explained the risk assessment protocol that students can go through if they’re contemplating self harm. Counselors and nurses are trained to recognize signs as well, she said.
“There’s a very clear protocol to assess the danger level,” she said. Juanitas said that the district hasn’t had a K-12 grade suicide in about 10 years.
Sometimes, one suicide can spark others, creating clusters of suicides in one area. This has happened in some cities, most notably Palo Alto, which is why it is extremely important for the district and members of the Davis community to work extra hard during the next few months to prevent suicide.
According to the website of Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services of Yolo County, warning signs of suicide include: personality changes, self-harm, withdrawal from friends and activities, changes in sleep patterns, and talking about death or suicide. Additional risk factors for suicide include a family history of suicides, previous suicide attempts, substance abuse, mental health conditions like depression or bi-polar disorder and stressful events.
Friends and family who observe these signs can talk to the person about whether he or she is contemplating suicide, refer them to a counselor or a therapist, or call a crisis line. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline also recommends on its website not to be judgmental or to “debate whether suicide is right or wrong,” and to not act shocked or dare a teen to do it. Instead, it counsels to take action through open communication and by removing items that could be used to commit suicide.
The Davis 24-hour crisis number is: (530) 756-5000.
“Eye on your dollar: Student Government budget and funds”
Note: Journalism is the first draft of history. That means some mistakes are inevitable. Even though I know this, I take every mistake personally. My first mistake was only asking the ASB treasurer about Student Government’s budget. My second mistake was miscommunication with the editor, which resulted in the version with errors being published. I used our publication’s mistake policy to correct the mistake: Own it. Fix it. Stop it.
(Published in the Nov. 18, 2016 edition of The HUB)
“A breakdown of Student Government’s budget”
Note: After understandable backlash from the ASB president, I rewrote the article interviewing three experts and citing district policies. When I interviewed the ASB treasurer the first time, he thought all the money was intended for Student Government use; however, a certain amount is set aside as a rainy day fund.
(Published in the Dec. 16, 2016 edition of The HUB)
I owned the mistake by admitting to not enough fact-checking. I fixed the mistake by printing the corrections in the December issue and rewriting. I stopped the mistake by creating a PowerPoint to share with the class so they will not make similar mistakes.
“45for45: Comparing and contrasting views on Planned Parenthood, women’s rights”
Note: After one of my publications was accused of being biased, I made it my goal to be show both sides of the topic, whatever it may be. When I received Sophie’s video alone, I thanked the correspondent and asked if she could find a student with an opposing view. She did.
“Concerns raised over dog owners ignoring leash laws”
Note: I acknowledged that I only heard one side of the story — the victim’s perspective which might hold bias. I reached out to the attacking dogs’ owner twice before forging ahead without her point of view. Then I contacted Animal Services to see if this incident was rare. It was not.
The feisty dogs snarled, snapped and sank their teeth into Davis resident Jenny Hing’s 18-pound papillon-border collie mix, Obie. The Oct. 18 attack lasted about two seconds before Hing pried her prized pup from the grips of two “medium-sized, brown and muscular dogs.”
Hing had been eating lunch on the walking trail behind Sutter Hospital in West Davis while 3-year-old Obie sat patiently tied to a post. A woman with three dogs — two of which were off-leash — approached Hing from behind, and immediately the dogs started jumping on Obie. However, the dogfight ended just as quickly as it started.
“It was over because I picked Obie up, and then the dogs were jumping on me trying to get at Obie. It took (the woman) a little while to contain the two dogs,” Hing said.
As a result of the attack, Obie suffered a puncture wound in his thigh muscle and a 2-inch-long skin tear. The skin was pulled away from the muscle, creating a pocket that required a drain, Hing said. After four weeks, Obie’s wound healed but his hair is still growing back.
Similar incidents happen often when dogs are not restrained by leashes, said Vicky Fletcher, Yolo County’s chief animal services officer.
“The problem that we run into is the fact that dogs run out in front of cars. They can cause vehicle accidents,” Fletcher said. “They sometimes go after another dog. They get into a fight. People try to break it up, and humans get bitten. Dogs get injured.
“People’s cats who are innocently sleeping on their own porch end up getting attacked by dogs that are roaming,” she added.
The city of Davis requires all dogs to remain on a leash except when on private property or when the dog is in a designated off-leash area. Unfenced off-leash areas include the Aspen Greenbelt, John Barovetto Park, Pioneer Park, Slide Hill Park, Sycamore Park and Walnut Park. Fenced off-leash areas include Community Park and Toad Hollow Dog Park.
Off-leash permits are available at the city’s Community Services Department for dogs involved in obedience training and showing in trials. In order to make use of the permit, dogs must be “enrolled and actually participating in a dog training or obedience class, exhibition or competition conducted by an organization with the permission of the owner or operator of the grounds or facility,” according to the city’s website.
“It’s important that people understand the ordinances related to this are not to restrict people from having a good time with their dog,” Fletcher said. “Until your dog knocks somebody down, bites somebody or causes injury or damage to somebody else’s pet or one of your community neighbors, you’re not going to realize just how far that can go.”
Hing filed a report with Animal Services after the owner of the dogs who attacked Obie did not pay for Obie’s veterinary bills, which amounted to less than $500.
But the money is just a small part of it for Hing. Obie required 24/7 care for four weeks after the incident, she said. He could not be left alone because he would pull off the cone wrapped around his head.
“He’s traumatized,” she said. “The first couple of days he was in a lot of pain. He got up two or three times at night yelping with pain and he would run around yelping so we would have to catch him and pin him down and medicate him.”
Fletcher thinks one of the solutions to abuse of the leash law is community policing.
“If you see something and you’re aware of it, if you report it, then we’ll act on it,” she said. “And then we hopefully can stop it before it gets to a point where somebody gets injured, sometimes permanently, and/or an animal is killed in the process or severely injured.”
Another solution lies with Animal Control officers, who regularly patrol the city and give warnings and citations to owners of off-leash dogs, Fletcher said. Davis police also can write citations for dogs being off-leash.
“We try to respond anytime somebody calls us,” Fletcher said. “We try to make contact with the dog owners to ensure that they understand their responsibility and often we try to give a warning to make them aware.”
Tracey Louper, a member of the Davis Dog Training Club and past president, thinks tougher leash laws will not help because the same people are still going to flout the law.
“It’s not dogs being off-leash that’s the problem. It’s the people that think they can control their dogs and can’t,” she said. “There’s not particular breeds out there offending. It’s any and all.”
Frustrated with how current leash laws are being ignored, some residents are taking the matter into their own hands.
Louise Wilson, obedience chair for the Chow Chow Club Inc. and pending treasurer of the Davis Dog Training Club, carries pepper spray as a precaution when she walks her chow chows on the North Davis greenbelt. Over the past 20 years, she has used pepper spray as a defense against threatening off-leash dogs a total of four times.
“The last time I used pepper spray, I used it on the dog that came after me,” she said. “The dog that came after me was not a big dog, but she could’ve knocked me down. I’m 75 years old. I don’t want to have a broken hip.”
The attack on Obie was not the first injury-causing dogfight in Davis, and likely will not be the last. Hing recognizes she cannot force people to follow the law, but she wants to raise public awareness about the dangers of off-leash dogs.
“Now I don’t feel safe taking Obie to Chestnut Park anymore, so the sad thing is the law-abiding citizens cannot make use of the parks for which our tax dollars go, but the people who break the law get to use the resources.”