Sounded like ‘a door slamming’
Washington principal discusses boy’s suicide
By Steve Metsch
Two teachers compared the noise to the sound of “a door slamming,” Washington Middle School Principal Don Jones said Monday evening.
It was a sound from a day that those teachers and Jones will never forget.
The “door slamming” was the sound of a gunshot fired by a student who took his own life April 17 in a bathroom at the Lyons school.
Johany Juan Bueno, 13, of Stickney, shot himself while in school around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. He was pronounced dead at Loyola Hospital from a gunshot wound to the head, officials said.
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“I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I’m going to refer to the student as ‘the student’,” Jones said.
The front office was made aware of a student not being in class, and went through the policy of checking where he may be, Jones said.
“Anywhere a kid could be, we check. Before we find the student, the student inflicts harm on himself,” Jones said, pausing to regain his composure.
“So, that happens, and two teachers hear the sound. One is near the bathroom. The bathroom is not near any classrooms …. They said it was like a door slamming. We now know it was a gunshot. Two teachers come out, they talk, they look in the bathroom … and see the student,” Jones said.
Assistant Principal Gary Wheaton was nearby, he “sees the two teachers come out frantic.” Wheaton radioed Jones, who put the school on soft lockdown.
One of the teachers went back into the bathroom, crawled beneath the locked stall door and began performing CPR on the student, Jones said.
The student has “a pulse” when he was rushed to Loyola Hospital. Jones called the teacher “a hero” for his actions. He thanked Lyons Police Chief Tom Herion and his officers for their quick and professional response.
Jones put the school on soft lockdown by 1:28 p.m. because there was no active shooter. “And then it truly becomes a rescue mission,” he said. The gun was recovered in the bathroom, and Bueno taken to the hospital.
“No student saw the student when he left with paramedics. I’m thankful for where this took place because no students interacted with this,” Jones said.
Jones’ first communication with the school community came at 2:02 p.m. He refused to send anything out until he first spoke with the student’s parents.
“I think that was the hardest conversation I’ll ever had, explaining to a parent their child’s been hurt, that they need to go to the hospital immediately and you need somebody to drive you because you’re not going to be okay driving,” Jones recalled.
The lockdown was lifted around 1:55 p.m. and students were dismissed as usual at 2:40 p.m., Jones said.
He intentionally did not mention gun in the notice he sent out because he “did not want to incite a mass panic.” There are nearly 800 students in the school.
After-school events April 17 were cancelled. Jones called a staff meeting to explain what had happened. Chief Herion attended the meeting to answer questions. The gun was from the student’s home and was legally owned, Jones said.
He elected to not close school on April 18 because he did not students dwelling over the loss over a four-day weekend. Close to 100 students on Thursday and again on Monday sought to speak about the suicide with a social worker, Jones said.
Bueno was the second Washington Middle School to commit suicide this year. A sixth-grader shot himself at his Lyons home in January.
A forum about student stress and how to cope with it had been scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. this Thursday, April 25, in response to the first suicide.
“Two boys dying of self-inflicted gunshot wounds tells me there’s an issue,” Jones said.
School officials are trained to look for signs of distress, perhaps being bullied or being depressed, he said.
“Neither student displayed those signs,” Jones said. “Bullying was not an issue with either one.”
“Report card and girls” bothered one student with “grades and maybe another issue” for the other, he said.
“We’re not here to blame people … I was at one guy’s house till midnight Wednesday, telling him it wasn’t his fault, and ‘I need you at school tomorrow because your kids need you. Get it together’ … That teacher was there on Thursday,” Jones said.
Jones is not against installing metal detectors at school doors, or requiring clear backpacks. “Our school is a reflection of our community,” he said. “If it’s my vote, I vote ‘no’ but I’m not against it.”
Encouraging notes were written in chalk on the school’s walkway Sunday to greet students Monday.
“Numerous parents” said he should have done more after the first suicide. “That’s fair criticism … but, also, we’re a community and we need to look within, too. Why do 11-, 12-, 13-year-old boys have access to loaded handguns?”
The gym erupted with applause.
Several parents, and board of education members after the forum said they were impressed with how Jones and his staff handled the suicide.
Virginia Connors, who has a grandchild in the school, was impressed, but thinks the school should consider metal detectors.
Assistant Principal Rubi Ortiz took it another step, urging parents to have passwords to their children’s social media accounts so they can keep tabs on them there.
“I have a 13-year-old. I go through her accounts. She doesn’t like it. I don’t care,” Ortiz said to some applause.
— Desplaines Valley News