A 14-year-old girl who died via suicide last year was reportedly omitted from her high school yearbook, leaving her parents aghast.
Rose was her name. Her mother, Beth Rondinelli, told Yahoo News that Downingtown High School East in Pennsylvania has “been shutting us out completely” after they tried to hand out roses at the school, run a fundraiser, and put money toward a bench to memorialize the girl.
Last week, she said that the yearbook didn’t include Rose.
“My family was very hurt,” Beth told the news outlet. She said her other daughter Rachel “wanted to do something about it.”
Rachael added to Yahoo that she contacted the school’s yearbook committee.
“The excuse that they gave me was that their advisor told me there was no room in the yearbook,” Rachel told the outlet. “14 letters [spelling Rose’s name] could’ve easily fit in the not pictured section.”
“This wasn’t fair to Rose, she’s not here to defend herself,” her mother added. “So her big sister, in the fashion that she’s always exhibited throughout Rose’s life, she’s got her back. That’s something that the school can’t say. They don’t have their backs.”
Beth told the outlet that the teen had Lyme disease and an undiagnosed autoimmune disease called PANDAS. She said the girl was depressed and anxious before she died.
“We had tried different medications and they didn’t help her. I feel like we kind of ran out of time,” Beth told Yahoo. “I guess the struggle got too tough for her and she couldn’t see that at some point it would pass with the right medicine. And she ended her life in September.”
Downingtown Area School District issued a statement in response to the yearbook controversy.
“DHS East and the Downingtown Area School District continue to mourn the loss of Rose Rondinelli. She was a very special person and is deeply missed by her friends and staff members throughout the district. Rose died shortly before student photos of each class were taken on September 11, 2018. These school photos have traditionally been placed in the back of the Senior Class yearbook,” the statement said.
It added: “Rose will long be remembered, and we cherish the contributions she made to DASD in her short life. We regret any pain we inadvertently caused the Rondinelli family. Our tradition has always been to include all deceased students in the yearbook of what would have been their senior year. Rose’s photo will be included in the class yearbook of 2022.”
The family, however, wasn’t impressed with the statement, saying that the school’s lack of action sends a bad message to other students.
“They say every student matters, but Rose didn’t matter to them,” Beth told Yahoo. “It’s a horrible message to say if you have a mental illness, you don’t matter. If you make the choice to end your life because you’re in so much pain, you don’t deserve to be recognized as a student.”
Following her death last year, a GoFundMe campaign was set up “for suicide prevention in loving memory of Rose Rondinelli.”
“For those of you who don’t know, this beautiful angel was taken from us too soon. Rose’s smile and infectious laughter followed her everywhere, making everything brighter. The world has lost an incredibly amazing girl,” the page said.
Suicides Spiked After ’13 Reasons’
Suicides among U.S. kids aged 10 to 17 jumped to a 19-year high in the month following the release of a popular TV series that depicted a girl ending her life, researchers said, The Associated Press reported.
The study published Monday can’t prove that the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” was the cause, but there were 195 more youth suicides than would have been expected in the nine months following the show’s March 2017 release, given historical and seasonal suicide trends, the study estimated.
During April 2017 alone, 190 U.S. tweens and teens took their own lives. Their April 2017 suicide rate was .57 per 100,000 people, nearly 30 percent higher than in the preceding five years included in the study. An additional analysis found that the April rate was higher than in the previous 19 years, said lead author Jeff Bridge, a suicide researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
If you are in an emergency in the U.S. or Canada, please call 911. You can phone the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1 800 273 8255. Youth can call the Kids Help Phone on 1800 668 6868.
In Australia, the suicide prevention telephone hotline at Lifeline is 13 11 14. You can also visit the Lifeline website at lifeline.org.au. Youth can contact the Kids Helpline by phoning 1800 551 800 or visiting headspace.org.au/yarn-safe
If you are in an emergency in India, call Befrienders India – National Association at +91 33 2474 4704.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.