The family of a 12-year-old Minnesota boy who took his own life last year has demanded answers after the late student was reportedly omitted from his school’s spring yearbook.
Kaiden Kauffman’s aunt told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the seventh-grader’s omission from Isanti Middle School’s yearbook “broke everybody’s heart.” She went on to say that the school is robbing themselves of an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about suicide and mental health.
“Suicide is something nobody wants to talk about,” Sarah Erickson told the local newspaper.
“You can’t just erase a kid and expect to prevent future suicides. Nothing changes unless it is talked about. The school failed.”
Kauffman, 12, died by suicide on September 22. Following his death, school officials reportedly rejected his family’s bid to have a tree planted on school grounds in his honor. KTSP noted that the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota advises against memorials as they believe it encourages copycats. However, the group does believe Kauffman should’ve been included in the yearbook.
“We feel badly and sympathize with the family and the grief they are going through,” Cambridge-Isanti Schools spokeswoman Shawna Carpentier told the Star Tribune. “We wished it didn’t happen.”
Given the school’s previous behavior, they believe Kaufman’s omission from the yearbook wasn’t an oversight but a highly calculated effort to erase the tween—and his tragic death—from the school’s history.
The slight has caused the family to push for a resolution even after officials said they hope to memorialize Kauffman in next year’s yearbook, according to WYFF.
“I felt as if Kaiden’s existence was erased and Kaiden mattered,” grandmother Dawn Kauffman-Mace told the news station. “He died in 2017, not the 2018-19 school year. You can’t go back. He deserved to be recognized.”
The station reported that yearbooks are compiled using class lists but officials are reviewing the policy to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again. But the heartbroken grandmother told KTSP that she hopes more comes from this mix-up than that.
“What I’m hoping for is that it creates conversations, and if it creates conversations, then maybe it might help stop a suicide,” she said.
[Featured image: Kaiden Kauffman/Twitter]