Proposed policy for Ogden School District would prohibit memorials for students who die

Posted at 10:32 PM, May 28, 2015

OGDEN, Utah -- A new policy proposal in the Ogden School District would prohibit memorials for students who have passed away.

The plan was brought before the Ogden School Board on Thursday.

According to district spokesman Zac Williams, who addressed the board, the proposal falls in line with district's suicide prevention work, which highlighted concerns about the impact memorializing suicide could have on some students.

"There may be other students at risk in the school for depression or even suicidal tendencies," said Williams.  "The way that we memorialize those that have passed on can have consequences for those individuals, and that's really at the heart of this policy."

Out of fairness, Williams said the district found it inappropriate to only prohibit memorials for students who died by suicide. Therefore, their proposal would put a stop to all memorials for deceased students, regardless of how they died.

Under the plan, 15 memorials would be prohibited at schools in the district. They include the following:

  • Funerals on school property.
  • Services that alter school routine.
  • Altering school property by planting a tree.
  • Memorials that alter school activity.
  • Memorials that infringe on separation of church and state.
  • Memorials that require public funds to be maintained
  • Memorials that include plaques attached to any object or building on school property.
  • Memorials in the yearbook.
  • Flying the flag at half-staff.
  • Placing noticed on outdoor message boards.
  • Memorials on school websites or social media.
  • Wearing memorial apparel, such as T-shirts or armbands.
  • Creating banners.
  • Dedicating publications, dances, sporting events to a person.
  • Making special acknowledgements at graduation ceremonies.

"We really encourage schools and administrators not to do memorials," said Dr. Greg Hudnall, executive director of Hope4Utah, which focuses on suicide prevention.

Hudnall helped draft the list for the Ogden School District. Years ago, he implemented something similar in Provo, where he served as a principal.

"When you have memorials, sometimes you'll have students that are on the edge struggling, feeling very alone, isolated, depressed, dealing with the mental illness," Hudnall explained. "I've heard young people say, 'If I were to go, that's a way to go. Look how famous this suicide is.'"

The district is still encouraging families and students to remember those they have lost, but in a different way. They encourage setting up a scholarship fund in honor of a student who has died. In conjunction with that, they also suggest sending a sympathy card signed by all students, as well as flowers.

"We are really practicing most of these procedures already," Williams said.

Thursday's meeting was a first draft reading of the proposal. It was unanimously approved by the board to be scheduled for a second reading.