How Deaths in Schools Affect Mental Health


Laurel Davis, News Editor

On Aug. 28, students and staff of Roswell High School received devastating news. Mr. Alex Chrzanowski, a beloved social studies teacher unfortunately passed away. Chrzanowski, a teacher and friend to both colleagues and students, joined the school 26 years ago. 

Roswell making efforts to make sure the students feel seen and loved during Mental Health Awareness Month (Photo Creds: Emerson Keith)

Chrzanowski, left a lasting impact on both his community and students. Mythology and TAG Seminar teacher Mr. Shackelford had been friends with Mr. Chrzanowski since they met at graduate school.  

Shackelford says his life has been affected significantly. “When we first heard, I was beyond shocked, like I was just kind of numb. I didn’t know how to feel; I didn’t know how to act. I think that first day that we found out, I was just trying to process it,” stated Shackelford.  

He talked about how he didn’t necessarily like how the school handled the death, saying he “wished we had just had a ceremony here,” and how he felt that the whole death had been pushed aside and forgotten.  

Following Chrzanowski’s passing, senior Kyle Smith, a classmate and friend to many Roswell students passed away on Sept. 7. 

When asked about guidelines for dealing with the passing of student or faculty member, Principal Ms. Miley says “there is not a specific list of what you do.” Students, parents, and faculty received emails following both passings, and “that blast notification is standard for the district… not a lot of feelings or emotions in it, so sometimes a principal will have to go back, and send a second communication that has a little bit more of their voice to it.”  

While some wished there was a ceremony for both passings held at Roswell, Miley says, “there are rules though, we can’t do memorials at the school… that’s a new policy.” When asked what they are allowed to do, she mentioned the scholarship made in Chrzanowski’s name and the shadow box in the media center. 

Senior Kyle Smith was described as a joyful and friendly kid, loved by his whole community. Quincy Johnson, an RHS freshman, and her family were close friends with Kyle Smith and his family, and she describes Kyle as “a brother figure to [her].” She says that her “daily life has been affected tremendously since his passing,” and she “will never have a day where my heart won’t ache out of the grief I have.” Kyle will continue to have an impact on RHS as he “had one of the most beautiful personalities I have ever seen… Even though he might not physically be here, his influence will always have an impact on everyone.”  

In Kyle’s case, he is still a minor and his parents have the most say in what happens considering his passing. Miley says “it depends on the parents’ preference.. you want to make sure they have some representation at the service… That drives a lot of what we do at this school, because we have to honor the parents’ wishes.” Miley “personally did a home visit. So, we went and spent some time with Kyle’s mother.”