- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Lincoln Public Schools administrators are working with students on grieving appropriately after some were upset that an end-of-semester concert did not include any visible tribute to a band member who died.

Lincoln police have classified the student’s death in November as a suicide but are continuing to investigate.

Lincoln East high school principal Sue Cassata said administrators worried that the concert could have been changed into a memorial, The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/1zONhRT ). She asked band instructors not to include a dedication in the program or have students play a piece in his memory.

“I have to think broadly,” Cassata said. “I have to think bigger than this one incident. I know it doesn’t feel good or right but that’s how I have to think. These things outlast one person.”

Cassata offered to talk to students and parents about the situation but said no one took her up on the offer.

Friends and family members have typically held vigils or memorials off campus when students have died. Administrators said that school-sponsored events should be handled equally for all students.

“You just have got to be careful because when something is done and if you do it once, then it’s expected it’s going to be done every time,” said Pat Hunter-Pirtle, LPS Director of Secondary Education and former principal at Southeast High School. “So it’s important you be careful about it.”

Brenda Leggiardo, coordinator of counselors and social workers for Lincoln Public Schools, says she is working to create additional guidelines for schools on issues dealing with grief. The district has employed a crisis team of 25 social workers for the past 20 years.

“The point is to be factual and limit rumors and also acknowledge that adults know (about the death) and are there to support students,” Leggiardo said.

Cassata said East is starting its own grief group for students and staff to help teachers connect and communicate.

“We need to help honor the people who died, work through their grief, and create a new sense of normal,” Cassata said. “It’s the hardest work that we do.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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