Teenagers sudden death shakes Banks High School community
Candles burned throughout the weekend in memory of Devon Kay Brown, a Banks High School sophomore who died last Thursday.
Classmates left notes and propped flowers against a white picket fence outside her family's home on Main Street after word reached them that the 16-year-old had passed away at a Portland hospital just after 10 a.m. on Dec. 7.
Winds buffeted several balloons, tied to the fence by friends and bearing the words 'We Miss You.'
Brown was president of the sophomore class and a Homecoming princess who was involved in sports and leadership activities at the 429-student high school.
Superintendent Marv Ott confirmed Friday that Brown's mother, Carrie Shaw, said her daughter had taken her own life.
According to a report from the Washington County Sheriffs Office, which investigated the incident, Brown was transported from her home to Legacy Emanuel Hospital by Life Flight helicopter between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Thursday. She was placed on life support but died later that morning, Ott said.
Sgt. David Thompson, public information officer with the county Sheriffs Office, said Brown's death appeared to have resulted from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No further criminal investigation is planned at this time, said Thompson.
'You were loved by everyone'
Tucked under candleholders and in bouquets on the sidewalk in front of Brown's yellow, two-story house, handwritten notes reflected feelings of shock, confusion and grief.
'You were loved by everyone,' wrote one student. 'I'm sorry you felt you needed to do what you did but it didn't make anyone love you any less.'
'Your light shines on in our hearts forever,' read another note.
The hallways were silent at the high school Friday afternoon. A third of the student body stayed home after learning of Brown's death the day before.
'We encouraged students to take care of themselves,' Ott said Friday morning. 'Most of the students who were close to Devon aren't here today.'
Nearly every staff member, some visibly shaken by news, attended an after-school session Friday with a counselor from The Dougy Center in Portland, an agency focused on helping grieving children and families.
'Our teachers are doing their best to cope and to answer students' questions,' Ott said. 'Everybody is asking themselves, 'why didn't I notice something?,' but there are no answers.'
Overwhelmed by the news, students streamed into 'safe rooms' set up around the school Thursday and Friday. The district's crisis team, which includes chaplains from area fire departments, was on site within hours, Ott said.
Announcements were delivered in individual classrooms at 9:20 and 10:20 a.m. Thursday. The first one informed students that Brown had been hospitalized. The second one let them know she had died.
'We're trying to carry on as normally as possible,' Ott said Friday morning. 'Many of our students are very distraught.
'It's tough - it's very tough.'
Carrie Shaw met with administrators and teachers Friday morning to talk with them about her daughter's death.
'She said no one should look at themselves as at fault,' Ott said.
Because Shaw indicated to school officials that the family wanted privacy, the News-Times has not contacted any of Brown's relatives.
Brown's older brother Everett, a 2002 graduate of Banks High, is serving in the Marines. A seventh-grade brother attends Banks Junior High and two other siblings attend Banks Elementary School.
'Most everybody knew her. She was very well liked,' Ott said of Devon Brown. 'She was a girl who appeared to be a very together and successful teenager.'
Brown had recently acquired her driver license and signed up to be an organ donor, Ott added.
'The community is traumatized by this,' he said. 'Everything is different now.'
What remains is to 'honor the family' and Devon's memory, Ott said.
A Celebration of Life for Devon Kay Brown is planned for 1 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 18 in the Banks High School gymnasium, 450 S. Main St. Family and friends are invited to a potluck reception after the service at Schlegel Hall in Sunset Park, 485 S. Main St.