WASHINGTON — Tell your children you love and support them. That urgent appeal to parents from the superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools follows the deaths of four teenagers in recent days.
Calling the deaths “tragic and unexpected,” the letter from Supt. Steven L. Walts adds, “I don’t mean to upset you, but I do need your help.”
He asks parents to talk with children to help them cope with feelings and to let them know help is available for those hurting enough to consider harming themselves.
On Monday, 15-year-old Christopher Owens was found dead. He had been missing since leaving his Bristow, Virginia home Saturday, possibly on a family all-terrain vehicle. Owens went to Brentsville District High School. On Wednesday, the medical examiner’s office determined Owens died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
On Saturday, an unidentified 17 -year-old who went to Osbourn Park High was found dead in his home in a suspected suicide.
Also Saturday, two 17-year-olds were found dead in a locked family van near Dawson Park in Woodbridge. Indya Davis, of Osbourn Park High, committed suicide, according to autopsy results. Like Davis, Lyle Ferringer also suffered stab wounds. Investigators looking into his death are awaiting toxicology results. Ferringer went to Gar-Field High School.
For Tuesday, the top notice on every middle and high school website in Prince William County is entitled What every parent should know about preventing youth suicide.
The resource for coping in a crisis offers suggestions for giving children a sense of security and offers warning signs indicating a child might need to talk with a counselor or psychologist.
Warning signs include the following:
- Acting recklessly.
- Long-term sadness.
- Avoiding social contact.
- Losing interest in activities.
- Feeling strong anger or rage.
- Giving away prized possessions.
- Change in eating or sleeping habits.
Prince William County police say more information from the death investigations will be released as it becomes available.