A New Jersey high school says it will now leave a seat empty at its graduation ceremony for a teenager who died by suicide last year after initially denying requests from the boy's family and classmates to do so.
"After careful consideration and more input from traumatic loss professionals, parents, students, and staff, the district has decided to incorporate more acitivits into the graduation ceremony to honor Jordan," Northern Valley Regional High School District Superintendent James Santana wrote in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "These situations are not easy to work through and we thank the community for their input, patience, and understanding."
Northern Valley Demarest said it will also announce the name of Jordan Falco at what would have been his high school graduation on Monday, June 21. The decision reversal came after more than 5,200 community members signed a petition asking the school to "save a seat" for Falco, who struggled with depression for years and died by suicide on April 29, 2020, just a week shy of his 17th birthday.
The Falco family was finally able to celebrate their son's life just a few weeks ago after not being allowed to hold a large gathering due to the pandemic.
They still have questions, though.
"We had switched medications a few weeks before he ended his life. Could that have been a part of it? We’ll never know," his mother, Dana Falco, said.
Jordan Falco played in the Northern Valley Demarest High School marching band and was a promising math student. He has been a student in the town starting in kindergarten through his death junior year, but now he won't even be included in the Class of ‘21 yearbook, his mother said.
So the family purchased a yearbook ad to tell his friends and classmates that Jordan Falco loved them all. His mother says his greatest legacy is summed up in this quote on his memorial bench: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
The Falco family did get the school to agree to another request earlier. The high school principal told the family in an email Monday that Jordan’s yearbook will be in the cafeteria on Wednesday, for all of his classmates and friends to sign.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.