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Parents Of Son Who Committed Suicide Rally For Changes | News

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Parents Of Son Who Committed Suicide Rally For Changes

VIENNA, Va.  (WUSA) -- The parents of a boy who committed suicide rally with others at the Fairfax County School Board meeting on June 9, 2011.  They are urging the board to make changes to a discipline policy they call too harsh, too punitive and even draconian.

"It's just hard when it's the death of a child," said Sue Anderson about her son Josh's suicide in March of 2009. He killed himself the night before he was to go to his second discipline hearing after being caught with marijuana.

"They made him out to be the Unabomber," said Tim Anderson, Josh's father.

The Andersons agree their son needed to be punished, but they say the severity of it pushed him over the edge.

"If this has happened off of school grounds, I think he would have had more rights. He would have had more of a fair process. They threw away all his rights," said Tim.

Josh was first caught with a small amount of pot in his backpack at Langley High School. He was immediately escorted off and banned from school property. When his discipline hearing came up, the Andersons say the hearing officers bullied their son, making him feel like a bad kid.

"It was absolutely horrible. They treated you like a criminal. It was guilty rather than innocent. He just shut down. I think he lost hope," said Sue.

Josh was transferred from Langley to South Lakes High School, but his parents say they didn't realize how much the ordeal had affected their quiet, well-liked child. They believe that if he had been allowed to stay at Langley, and been disciplined there, that he'd be alive today.

"For Josh at Langley, he'd been with the kids since like second, third grade. And to be ripped out of that environment could be awful," said Tim.

At South Lakes, Josh was caught again with marijuana. But the thought of enduring another hearing was apparently too much to bear.

"I think if maybe if we didn't live here, in a zero tolerance place, maybe he'd still be with us," said Sue.

She writes about her son's loss in this blog

Josh's death sparked the forming of the group Zero Tolerance Reform, which has been advocating for changes to the policy. The issue gained more attention after the suicide of Nick Stuban, 15, who had been a Boy Scout and football player at Woodson High School.   

While Superintendent Dr. Jack Dale has presented recommendations for changes, the group doesn't think they go far enough.   Sue Anderson commented on Dale's recommendations on her blog.

The Andersons and Zero Tolerance Reform want a moratorium on involuntary transfers for students until the school system can prove they work.

Zero Tolerance Reform also wants parental notification when students are caught with an infraction that could get them suspended for more than three days.  

Sue Anderson has compiled many articles written about Josh and the policy on her blog.