School and town officials made it clear on Wednesday that the situation regarding any problems Bart Palosz experienced were known to them.
Greenwich Schools Superintendent William McKersie said he was notified of Bart’s death at 7:15 p.m. Aug. 27 and began to muster support staff to help students and staff cope with the news that pervaded social media in the ensuing hours.
McKersie said that school professionals at New Lebanon, Western Middle and Greenwich High schools all knew Bart and issues he faced. All expressed shock that the 15-year-old would make the choice he did—use a family shotgun to end his life—a life that would be thought full of promise like any high school sophomore who just finished the first day of school.
Instead, just after 6 p.m. Aug. 27, police were summoned to the family home on High Street in the Byram section of Greenwich, where the teen was found mortally wounded. The shotgun, Greenwich Police said, had been secured in a gun locker in the family’s home.
Questions remain on whether school officials did enough to prevent the taunting and bullying that family, friends, students and officials say were the underlying causes for the teen to take his life. Citing the ongoing police investigation, officials would not address those questions.
On Googleplus.com, a profile for Bart Palosz included several comments dated June and July in which the poster threatened suicide. What was apparent in the posts, there was nothing to indicate commenters tried to discourage the teen or provide support and encouragement to seek help.
Social media is one area that McKersie acknowledged that both school officials and parents must become more vigilant in patrolling, as well as maintaining open lines of communication.
“We’re taking everything that is being brought to us very seriously. Chief Heavey and (School Resource) Officer (Carlos) Franco are looking at that very closely on that and are in touch with the situation but it’s an ongoing investigation and we can’t comment on that,” McKersie said.
When asked what advice he would give parents who may have children facing similar situations, McKersie said, “It is tied to what’s happening in social media in so many ways.” McKersie added, ”As a parent…we’re in a new time in terms of social media things that are shared, things that are said that may not be meant … we’ve learned a lot in Greenwich but we have to do even more …setting aside this tragedy, any parent needs to say how do I monitor what my child is doing.”
“If I’m a young adult someone in the schools, in the community and I see something on line, just don’t let it sit,” McKersie said. “Like someone said in the hallway, you got to follow up on it that’s for all of us. There are legal issues but … It’s a wake up call … great systems in Greenwich but how do we build on that to help our kids make the right decisions.”
Privately, there has been concern expressed on whether the school district provided enough support for the concerns expressed by the teen and his family. “They knew about this kid being in trouble and being bullied for years and what was done? This didn’t happen overnight,” said one person. Another expressed shock over the suicide saying that they thought school professionals’ plan of action to assist the teen were adequate and the situation under control.
Citing the ongoing police investigation officials would not comment on that had been done to assist Bart and his family or the possible reasons that prompted the teen’s decision. Police also would not comment on whether a suicide note or other communication was left by Bart.
Police Chief James Heavey said social service, crisis intervention and mental health professionals including Kids in Crisis in Cos Cob and the Greenwich Police Special Victims Section will be available throughout the weekend for those needing assistance.
Update: Aug. 28, 3:35 p.m.
Greenwich town, school and police officials would not release details of the circumstances which apparently prompted a Byram teen to fatally shoot himself Tuesday evening.
Both Greenwich Schools Superintendent William McKersie and Police Chief James Heavey said the police investigation continues into what caused Bartlomiej "Bart" Palosz, a Greenwich High School sophomore, to shoot himself Aug. 27.
"Bart was known to individuals at the high school and (Western) middle school," McKersie said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference at Greenwich Town Hall. "His sister came back home from college...she just graduated Greenwich High School, and she said that she does not want another student to make the decision that he made."
First Selectman Peter Tesei, who was visibly shaken and choked up as he began his comments, said, "We stand here in support of the family, to work with them in a time of horrific tragedy."
Tesei added, "We are assembling resources (for the community). It is important that we recognize the ripple effects ... and be there for Greenwich High School students as they deal with the loss of one of their peers."
For a few moments, Bart's sister, Beata, and a male friend, waited in the Town Hall Meeting Room for the press conference to begin. Selectman Drew Marzullo escorted them to his office where they reportedly met with officials as well as counselors.
*Greenwich Patch will have continued coverage of this developing story.
Original story: Aug. 28, 12:51 p.m.
Greenwich Police are investigating the apparent suicide of a 15-year-old Greenwich High School student.
According to a police statement, the student died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Aug. 27. The teen, identified by Greenwich Public School officials as Bartlomiej "Bart" Palosz, apparently used a family-owned weapon that had been secured in a gun locker in the family's Greenwich home.
Here is the statement released late Wednesday morning by Greenwich Public Schools:
"A Greenwich High School sophomore student, Bartlomiej Palosz passed away last night, Tuesday, August 27, 2013. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and teachers. School crisis teams have been convened at the high school, Western Middle School and New Lebanon School, the schools that he attended. Mental health personnel are providing counseling to anyone that is in need."
"Any further details surrounding his passing will be referred to the Greenwich Police Department. Out of respect for his family no other details will be released from the Greenwich Public Schools.
"We take seriously the importance of a positive school climate and the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Any indications that a student is experiencing significant mental health distress is addressed at the school level by personnel trained to recognize and respond to these concerns."
"Importantly, if any staff member believes that a student poses a danger to him/herself, or others, parents are notified and the student is immediately referred to outside supports and providers."
Police also released a list of community resources, if you or someone you know is having a difficult time coping with a situation. If you are in crisis and need immediate assistance please contact any one of these hotlines.
- Police Department: 911
- United Way of Connecticut (Crisis Hotline):211
- Department of Children and Families Careline /Emergency Mobile
- Psychiatric Services: 1-800-842-2288
- National Hopeline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
- The National Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); TTY number: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
- Kids in Crisis: 203-327-KIDS (5437).
Greenwich town, school and police officials have scheduled a 1:15 p.m. press briefing at Greenwich Town Hall.
Greenwich Patch will update this story as more details become available.