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School district navigating conversation about grief with children after death of principal

Principal Brian Koland's family gave the district permission to share that Mr. Koland died by suicide.

ROSEVILLE, Minn. — It hasn't been a typical start to the week at Edgerton Elementary school.

"We learned of Brian's death on Sunday, late afternoon," Roseville Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Jenny Loeck said. 

Loeck said Edgerton Elementary School Principal Brian Koland had died by suicide. 

Principal Koland's family gave the district permission to openly talk about the circumstances of his death.

"My heart is full of immense sadness, our community is grieving in district 623," Loeck said. "At the same time, I'm incredibly grateful for the support and encouragement they've given the district in terms of having a platform to raise awareness around mental health and suicide prevention and that's why we chose to share that message."

By today it was clear that students and staff at Edgerton knew the entire district was grieving.

It was also clear that Koland was loved. Edgerton staff and students had chalk art near the main entrance. Signs were put up in honor of Koland, along with balloons and candles.

"I remember walking into visit with Brian, whether it was a scheduled visit or a spontaneous visit," Loeck said. "I could always bet I would find him sitting on the floor, outside of a classroom, cross-legged with his computer or stepping inside a classroom knowing every single name of every single child."

Communicating about grief and suicide is difficult for all ages, but school psychologist Heather Musich said transparency is key.

"We really wanna get over the stigma about mental health and there's a lot of people hurting right now," Musich said. "I think the more we talk about it the more people might seek help and get the help they need. Also kids are very sensitive so they know when something is going on, and when the adults are sad, the kids can sense that."

And the district's overall goal was to let everyone know that their feelings, are valid.

"The teachers are trying to be strong for the kids, but there's also situations where the teachers let the kids see them sad," Musich said. "So that the kids know it's okay to be sad about something like this, and you don't have to hide your feelings all the time, so it is a balance."

Moving forward while honoring Principal Koland is something Dr. Loeck said the district is navigating.

"There are many children who need because of other trauma in their life, to go to school and not think about a death in their community," Loeck said. "We need to move forward with routine as well and that's the part about not being perfect. We need to have school move on in a normal fashion and we need to set aside time and space to remember Brian."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also text 'MN' to 741741.