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Students Petition To Save Graduation Seat For Bergen Classmate Who Died By Suicide

Jordan Falco
Jordan Falco Photo Credit: "Save a Seat for Jordan"

A Bergen County teen who took his own life won't be honored at his high school's upcoming graduation ceremony, prompting protest from students and community members.

Instead, there will be a moment of silence, district officials said.

A memorial service honoring 16-year-old Jordan Falco during the 2021 graduation ceremony next Tuesday would "set a bad precedent," a petition quotes Northern Valley Demarest High School Principal Dr. Timothy Gouraige as saying. 

Gouraige, in his defense, told Daily Voice that it was "a district decision, not a building decision," and denied saying that saving a seat for Jordan sets a bad precedent. He also said administrators will be meeting with seniors later Tuesday to share any information during a class meeting.

"Our relationships with all of our students have always been the most important thing to us," Gouraige said.

"There is nothing more important than that to ensure a safe and successful school. When we tell them we care, we do mean it. 

"We hope that we have shown that to them over the years, and that provides them some comfort that we will come out of this with a celebration that is worthy for the class of 2021 and all of its students, including Jordan."

The petition -- "Save a Seat for Jordan" -- had garnered nearly 3,800 signatures.

Northern Valley Schools Supt. James Santana said the district is following the guidance of traumatic loss experts and will be honoring Jordan, along with a teacher who died this year, with a moment of silence during graduation.

"We all need to keep in mind that our school community spent a large amount of time honoring Jordan last year and graduation ceremonies are meant to be celebratory events," Santana said.

"We feel that a moment of silence is an appropriate way to honor Jordan at the graduation ceremony.

"It honors Jordan's memory while respecting the emotional well-being of the other students who may be triggered by other types of memorial activities."

The superintendent noted that the district has been working with the Falco family since Jordan's death to organize memorial activities and events to both honor Jordan and help the student body grieve his loss.

Those events include a swing dedication in Demarest, and a blue and white day held immediately following Jordan's death last year, and a yearbook signing activity to be held Wednesday.

Jordan was remembered for musical talent, as well as an innate ability to make others laugh.

A lifelong Demarest resident, Jordan was an active member of the NVD community. He played the sousaphone for the school's marching band, the tuba for the wind symphony and trombone for the jazz and pep bands, his obituary says.

Jordan was head librarian for all instrumental bands and orchestras. He was also a member of the Thespian Society and the audio engineer for Northern Valley Demarest shows.

Jordan was also a member of Mock Trial and Student Senate, and had been working for the NVD after school program (SACC) ever since he was 12.

In his spare time, Jordan volunteered for Rockland County, NY non profit ArtsRock.

The petition has drawn dozens of comments:

"I am signing because Jordan deserves respect and recognition for the impact he made within the school community. He was an integral part of the class of 2021. This is the right thing to do and I fail to understand why it is even being debated."

"We need to bring the plight of lack of mental health care in this country to the fore front, In addition Jordan was a member of the NVD family, his parents deserve to have him recognized as a member of the class of 2021. Don't push Jordan aside, bring him into the fold and face what happened to him and unfortunately too many other young people."

"As a former NVD student Im horrified to see that NVD wouldn’t leave a seat for this student. The lack of respect for the family and for the voices of the student body and community is appalling. The action of leaving an empty seat is a bare minimum gesture. It costs no money. It costs no time. Its truly the least you could do."

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