After suicide of 13-year-old, some in Endicott say school could have helped prevent it
This story deals with suicide. If you or someone you know is considering harming themselves or others, you can contact the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline by calling 988, or the Crisis Text Line by texting GOT5 to 741741.
In the Village of Endicott, the suicide of a 13-year-old boy last month has some in the community asking if more could have been done to prevent his death.
Domanick Hayward took his life about a week before Thanksgiving. He was an eighth-grade student in the Union-Endicott Central School District.
Those who knew Domanick said he was outgoing and empathetic. He was tall for his age, he liked anime and wore his hair in a pink and purple mohawk.
"He was around adults all the time," said Aime Crawford, Domanick's mother. "He just wanted friends his own age. He was socially awkward, and it was hard for him."
Crawford said kids at school would often pick on her son. Just days before his death, Crawford said her son sustained serious injuries to his head during a fight after school, which required emergency medical attention.
The incident was captured on school security cameras. An onlooker also recorded the fight on a cell phone. Students and parents say that video is still circulating through the school community.
School mental health professions across the state said students' social and emotional skills suffered during nearly two years of online learning throughout the pandemic.
When classes resumed in person, many parents, teachers and students reported a dramatic increase in fighting, vandalism and bullying compared to before the pandemic. A statewide audit this year also found many districts did not have sufficient mental health staff or resources.
Since then, many districts, Union-Endicott included, have implemented new programs and services meant to address those issues.
But at a recent district meeting held in response to Domanick's death, some said it's too little, too late. Here’s Union-Endicott High School student AJ Wilt.
"Genuinely, I do believe that the death, the bullying all could have been prevented if the right channels that they claim to use were actually used," Wilt said.
Heidi Gramlich Bryson is a librarian at Endicott’s public library, where Domanick would hang out after school almost every day.
Gramlich Bryson said she keeps revisiting the last conversation she had with Domanick. It was likely one of the last conversations the 13-year-old had before his death. He had shown her the abrasions on his head from the fight several days before.
"I feel like I spewed stuff that you feel like you're supposed to say, like, 'Tell your teacher, go to the school,'" Gramlich Bryson said. "And clearly, that was probably the worst thing that you could say to him in that moment, because he felt totally abandoned by them."
Union-Endicott Superintendent Nicole Wolfe said the school district has protocols to investigate and address bullying, though incidents that take place outside of the regular school day can pose additional difficulty.
When asked if district protocol had been followed properly in Domanick’s case, Wolfe declined to comment, citing an ongoing police investigation.