For the second time this school year, a student at the private Waynflete School in Portland has died by suicide, according to public announcements on the school’s website.

A member of the junior class took her own life on Sunday, school administrators wrote in unusually open and poignant messages to the school community that were posted Monday night.

“Her family, friends, teachers and professionals have worked tirelessly to support her and everyone is devastated by this news,” Head of School Geoff Wagg wrote. “I spoke with (her father) and expressed our deepest condolences. (He) asked that for the moment we provide the family with space to grieve. They are surrounded by friends and family who will take care of their immediate needs.”

Classes and activities resumed Monday at the school, where quiet space and counseling were provided for students and parents who might need support.

“As we process grief in our own way, it is important that as a school we continue to follow our normal schedule and routine as we can,” Upper School Director Lowell Libby wrote in a message that was read to students Monday morning. “We will have extra counselors on campus this week.”

The school took a similar approach on Nov. 1, when it posted messages that Payton Sullivan, a 16-year-old sophomore, had taken her own life on Oct. 31.


“Our faculty and staff join her family and friends in grief,” Wagg wrote on the school’s website on Nov. 1. “We will work diligently to provide support to our community in the days and weeks to come.”

Sullivan’s obituary in the Portland Press Herald described her as a “victim of depression and suicide.”

Libby’s messages to the student body were similar for both girls.

“A death by suicide presents many questions that we may not be able to answer right away,” Libby wrote this week. “It is usually caused by a disorder such as depression. (The student who died Sunday) was being treated by professionals. She loved school and all of you. It is gut-wrenching to know now that that was not enough.”

The student who died Sunday was 17 years old. It was unclear Tuesday whether the girl’s family had consented to publicly disclose her suicide. Calls to the family’s home in Cumberland were not returned Tuesday night. No obituary had been sent to the newspaper.



It was apparent from the messages posted by Waynflete administrators that the deaths have deeply affected the small school.

Founded in 1898, Waynflete is a preparatory school with 550 students in pre-kindergarten through high school. It occupies 5 acres in one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods. Tuition is $24,000 to $29,000 per year, depending on grade.

School officials also did not return calls on Tuesday.

Greg Marley, a licensed clinical social worker and the clinical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Maine, helped Waynflete develop its response to both deaths as part of the Maine Suicide Prevention Program.

“The entire school community – students, staff, parents – they are reeling,” Marley said. “The goal of this carefully thought-out response is to communicate clear information about the loss in a way that doesn’t glorify suicide.”

Marley said Waynflete has taken steps to support students as they cope with the loss, maintain the integrity of the school community and address fears that other parents may have about their own children. Marley acknowledged that adolescents and young adults are especially vulnerable to copying their peers and that the two deaths have heightened concern for other students.



Libby’s message posted this week seems to reference the earlier loss.

“As we have discussed recently as a community, depression can prevent a person from thinking clearly about their problems and how to solve them,” Libby wrote. “Sometimes these disorders are not identified or noticed; in other cases, a person with a disorder will show obvious symptoms or signs.”

Libby noted that while not everyone who has depression feels suicidal, “it is important for you to know that resources are available at Waynflete for any students who struggle with these feelings. There are treatments that can help. One thing is for certain: suicide should never, ever be an option.”

Libby urged students to respect one another as they may handle grief differently.

“Some of you may find that you’re having difficulty concentrating on your schoolwork, while others may find that diving into your work is a good distraction,” Libby wrote. “It is important to know that there is no ‘right way’ to process your feelings. However this impacts you, please be open and reach out to adults for help.”

Libby concluded by asking students to remember the student who died Sunday for who she was and how she lived.

“(She) was full of love, compassion, intelligence, humor, imagination, and so much more,” Libby wrote. “We will keep you updated on her family’s wishes for a way to remember her life. In the meantime, let’s join together in sending (her) family our thoughts and prayers.”


Comments are no longer available on this story