Student who died by suicide won't be recognized when classmates graduate

LA PORTE, Texas (KTRK) -- A family in La Porte ISD is fighting to have their late daughter recognized at what would have been her high school graduation this week.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. That's why the La Porte Class of 2021 wanted to make sure they not only continue to heal, but also continue to talk about a taboo topic.

But they say at this point, they feel like their classmate is being erased.

"This is not something that should be swept under the rug, they should not be putting her aside," said Melody Fuentes.

Fuentes, along with Rebecca Seber and Alexis Holley, started a petition, hoping to honor their classmate at graduation this Friday.

Charisma Garza, who suffered from mental illness, sadly took her own life a few years ago. It has not been easy for her friends and family.

"I would never want any other parent to feel what I'm feeling, and if we can raise awareness, that's all we want to do," said Charisma's mother.

The students were hoping that the La Porte High School principal would leave an empty chair for her at graduation or maybe mention her name as well, but they say their idea was quickly shut down.



"[The principal is] in fear that in doing so, memorializing her, another student will follow in her footsteps," said Fuentes.

Instead, her classmates feel talking about it and acknowledging it will help them heal and bring much needed awareness.

"I feel like what we are doing is important," said Seber. "Their reasoning behind it is quite frustrating."

La Porte ISD released the following statement:

"As parents ourselves, we feel deep sadness for any parent who has lost a child. We also concern ourselves with the well-being of our students who are being honored for completing high school. Heeding the educated advice of crisis counselors, we will move forward to recognize our graduating class of 2021 without any potential trigger for anyone who has experienced such a horrible loss or has considered it themselves. The health and safety of our students (and staff) are always of paramount importance."

"[It's] disappointing and hurtful that the school is not honoring our request," said Fuentes.

Charisma's mother said her daughter was suffering from depression and anxiety. She went to counseling and took medication.

Now, her family and friends dedicate their time to mental health awareness, and they feel a big part of winning the battle is talking about it. Her mother hopes district officials change their mind come Friday.

"All I want is for the school just to recognize that was the student they had, not the death. That didn't define her," said her mom.

If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is help available. You can call 1-800-273-8255 - The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime, day or night.

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