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Suicide to be investigated

Board decides to hire outside agency to examine Lasater

Posted: October 30, 2008 9:53 p.m.
Updated: January 1, 2009 5:00 a.m.
 
The Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District agreed Thursday night to contract with a risk-management firm to investigate the suicide of Jeremiah Lasater, a 14-year-old freshman at Vasquez High School.

“We want to bring as many facts forward, establish a timeline and look at the campus culture,” said Rosemary Oppenheim, school principal.

At a special meeting, school board members voted 5-0 to contract with Keenan and Associates, a Torrance risk-management firm. The amount of the contract was not disclosed.

 “The contract is hourly for how long the investigation will last,” Oppenheim said. Keenan and Associates’ investigation will last between two and three months, she said.

Lasater shot and killed himself in a school bathroom Oct. 20. The special-needs student was the victim of teasing and bullying by other students, according to several school employees.

Keenan and Associates investigation will piggyback on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigation, Oppenheim said.

The Sheriff’s Department will focus on establishing a timeline for the events before Oct. 20, while the consultant will investigate the events on the day Lasater killed himself and consider whether bullying is prevalent on campus, she said. The investigation may stretch beyond Vasquez High, Oppenheim said. “At this time the investigation is limited to the high school, but the option is there to investigate K-12,” she said.

Vasquez High students began recovering from the deep wounds that cut the community in the wake of Lasater’s suicide. “We had a very healing ceremony on Tuesday,” Oppenheim said about a school memorial held at the Agua Dulce Church of Latter Day Saints.

Vasquez High is looking at other school district for help with its campus culture, Oppenheim said. Vasquez High officials met with Antelope Valley Unified School District officials to ask about copying the district’s tolerance program, she said.

“Although it was a tragedy, we need to learn from it and make necessary changes so that we can do our part to make a safe environment,” she said.

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