As of Monday, Mark and Joni Adler had talked to more than 19,000 high school students about the loss of their son, Reid to suicide on Jan. 7, 2016.
They could talk to 90,000 students, Joni Adler said, and they’d still have the same hurt, the same dramatically altered lives they have had since Reid was found dead in their Ralston home.
Mark, the superintendent of Ralston Public Schools, and Joni spoke for an hour in the David City High School gym. The DCHS students were riveted by the tragic tale, one that has been come all too common across the country as the age-old torment of bullying has been accelerated, vastly altered, by the everyday use of smart phones and social media.
The story: A few months before his death, Reid, a freshman at Ralston, had reached out to his parents about suicidal thoughts and feelings. The tight-knit family sought and received help, but Reid didn’t disclose the true core of the problem. Months earlier, the family would later find out, Reid had taken an inappropriate picture of his body. He had sent it to a girl.
The Adlers explained that the girl had used the photo to threaten, manipulate and bully Reid, until finally the night of his suicide, she had apparently made good on her threat, and shared the photo on social media. The Adlers learned later of Reid’s text discussion with his friends, his threatening of suicide and then telling them he “was kidding.” Another friend of Reid’s went to bed thinking the crisis was over, but she was notified the next day at school that Reid was dead.
As in so many stories about suicide, the threat was not conveyed to those who could step in and prevent Reid’s death. Mark Adler chronicled the family’s life before and after the suicide, noting that the Adlers chose to talk about the experience to “bring something positive out of something so negative.”
Joni Adler spoke about healing of forgiveness – for those who were aware of the threat, for the girl who, they later found, had certainly not known that Reid would kill himself over the photo.
Much of the Adlers’ presentation focused on the future. They acknowledged that telling young people to stop bullying isn’t the easy answer. It’s a lot more complicated than that. But Joni Adler asked anyway.
“I’m asking you to stop,” she said, noting that it’s a natural instinct for a person to lash out at someone who has hurt them. But if the lashing out becomes repeated on social media, the effect is magnified, she said.
“If it doesn’t stop with you, who is it going to stop with?” she said.
The Adlers said they were trying to “raise an army of kindness.”
Mark Adler said that students need to step up and be leaders when it comes to creating a culture of kindness. Just as in athletics, he said, students need to strive harder when they feel they’ve reached their limit.
The family, they said, was fortunate to have created a lot of memories with Reid and his two sisters. Reid was known as a friend to all, regardless of a person’s background or family situation. On the family tailgate trips to Nebraska football games at Memorial Stadium, he frequently brought seven or eight friends along in the family’s converted RV. He went out of his way to help anyone who was having a bad day at school, including teachers.
Reid was an athlete and sports bonded the father and son. In the fall of 2015 he got to suit up with the varsity football team.
Mark Adler said the family faced options after Reid’s death. They could move and find new jobs. They could avoid dealing with the aftermath in a town where Mark’s job made them known to many.
They chose to speak up about long lasting pain that ripples from a suicide.
“We don’t want any family to feel what we feel,” Mark said.
Chad Denker, supertintendent of David City Public Schools, said the district invited the Adlers to speak after seeing them at a statewide administrator’s gathering.
DCHS Principal Cortney Couch said that with the recent concerns being raised about school safety and firearms, the message of kindness was critical across many issues facing young people. For all the students who are affected by bully-related suicide or violence, he said, there are many more who are adversely affected in their academic careers and beyond.
The Butler County Sheriff’s race, a three-candidate special runoff, was credited with boosting the local turnout of the 2014 general election.
The sheriff’s race and a county supervisor race may save the May 15 primary from some low numbers, since there will be few other local races on the primary ballot.
The sheriff’s office has two candidates in May, and there will be general election race this year as well.
Sheriff Marcus Siebken is vying for a second term. He was elected in 2014 in a three-person race following the sudden death of longtime Sheriff Mark Hecker. Siebken was appointed to complete Hecker’s unfinished term.
Travis Prokupek of Shelby is challenging Siebken on the Republican ticket.
Former sheriff’s deputy Tom Dion, who moved on to working for the City of David City, has filed on the Democratic side.
The contests for Butler County Board of Supervisors includes a couple of races so far in the primary, while a general election race looms for a third incumbent.
There will be some change in District 7, where one-term Supervisor Dave Potter did not file for re-election. Potter said that after taking on the assistant manager job for the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, he knew he would not be seeking another term.
Irvin Cidlik of Dwight, a longtime former supervisor defeated by Potter in the 2014 primary, has filed as a Democrat, as did challenger Cyril J. Urbanek of Ulysses. Larry H. Timoney of Ulysses joined in on the Democratic race.
On the Republican side are Anthony Whitmore of Dwight and Ron Sedlak of Ulysses.
In District 1 County Board Chairman Dave Mach is uncontested as a Republican.
In District 3, incumbent Kevin Slama filed as a Democrat. Running unopposed on the Republican side is Scot Bauer, also of Rising City.
District 5 Supervisor Scott Steager, who also works as the county’s emergency management director, filed as a Republican and is unopposed
Incumbents in other county offices have filed:
County Assessor Vickie Donoghue, Republican; County Attorney Julie Reiter, R; County Clerk Vicki Truksa, County Surveyor Brian Foral, County Treasurer Karey Adamy. Recently appointed Clerk of the District Court Sandy Hoeft has filed as a Republican.
Barring any write-in developments, David City voters won’t have any choices to make in May or November.
Mayor Alan Zavodny has filed to seek a third term and is unopposed. Also unopposed: City Council incumbents Thomas Kobus, Ward 1; Kevin Hotovy, Ward 2; and John Vandenberg, Ward 3.
There will be new faces on the David City Public Schools Board. Incumbents Stephanie Summers and Nathan Olson filed for re-election. They were joined in the race by Kasey Kuhlman and Darrell J. Allen of David City. Three seats are open. In order for the names to be on the primary ballot, seven candidates would have had to file.
In the East Butler Public Schools District, there also will be new faces on the board after Jan Bostelman, Mark Janak and Marlene Wade, the current vice president, decided not to file for re-election. Dylan Spatz of Prague filed in the North Ward. Sara Strizek of Valparaiso filed for the Middle Ward. The South Ward race has two candidates: Jocelyn Sloan and Ryan Pekarak of Dwight. All candidates will advance to the general election ballot.
In the Shelby-Rising City Public Schools District, incumbents Jeff Kuhnel and Chris Whitmore filed for re-election, while Jennifer Belt did not file to run for another term. Non-incumbent Jackie Sliva filed before the March 1 deadline. There are three open seats.
Township board members and village board of trustees will appear on the general election ballot in November.
Township filings: All are incumbents unless otherwise noted.
Alexis: Galen Zimmerman
Franklin: Lane Sabata.
Linwood: Randy Semrad, Kirk Marushak, Alexander Hays.
Olive Township: Dan Homan, Bob Jones, Jeremy Coufal.
Plum Creek: Carol Bohuslavsky, B.J. Matulka,
Reading Township:Kevin Siffring (non-incumbent)
Summit : Don Carley, Frank Fichtl
No filings were received in these townships: Bone Creek, Center, Oak Creek, Platte, Read, Richardson, Savannah, Skull Creek, Ulysses and Union.
These village board candidates have filed so far:
Octavia: Lavern H. Beringer and non inbumbents John W. Ehlers and Steven Marshall.
Rising City: Heath P. Vrbka and Richard Amsler.
Surprise: Donald W. Primus