Ann Arbor students demand more mental health resources after classmate's death

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A group of students from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School walked out of class on Thursday to raise awareness of the need for more mental health resources in school, just days after their 15-year-old classmate was found dead on school grounds.

Ximena Rowe Avila, a 10th grader at Pioneer, was among the 100 students, she estimated, who walked out around 10:15 a.m. on Thursday. Avila said the walk-out was organized by students and families who are upset about the way the school and the police handled Adriana Davidson's death.

"The school system needs more mental health resources and awareness and more flexibility and awareness of kids who are struggling," Avila said. The students have vowed not to return to school until Friday.

Adriana Davidson

Davidson was found dead outside under school bleachers on Monday. Davidson last communicated with her family around 9 a.m. Friday while on her way to school, the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office has said.

Friends said they last saw the Scio Township resident, also known as Addy, around 11 a.m. that day outside Pioneer High. Relatives reported her missing early the next morning.

There were no initial signs of foul play, according to the Sheriff's Office. Ann Arbor police said on Thursday that an autopsy was completed Tuesday. Cause and manner of death are pending. petition launched after her death criticizes authorities and Ann Arbor Public Schools in the search for the girl and for a lack of mental health resources and seeks changes.

It also noted Adriana was the second Pioneer student to die in the last two years during school hours, citing Alex Walker dying after jumping from a train trestle into the Huron River in May.

Avila said Davidson's last known location was in school, and she alleges that was the last place police searched.

"They didn't look at (school camera) footage and they didn't search the school until Monday. The school itself and a whole K-9 and police team was searching the grounds. She was found under the bleachers. Any student could have found her," Avila said. "They should have gone into soft lockdown, where you sit in classroom and can't go into the hall."

Avila, who was a friend of Davidson, said she did not see her friend in the second-hour class they have together on Friday.

"Friends texted her and asked if she was OK. She said no and stopped responding," Avila said.

Davidson was struggling, Avila said, and tended to skip class, but she always responded to friends' text messages.

"I think first of all, mental health help would have most likely prevented this. Addy was showing clear signs of struggling," Avila said. "She talked a lot about struggling with the relationship with her parents. ... For her, those were signs of distress. She was asleep in class or not there at all."

District spokesman Andrew Cluley said in a statement on Thursday that an estimated 30-40 students walked out. There was also a vigil Wednesday night at the school.

"We are all deeply saddened by the loss of Adriana 'Addy' Davidson. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to Addy’s family, friends and the Pioneer staff and community," the statement read. "Last night a vigil was held at Pioneer High School for family, friends and the Pioneer community. Today a group of students staged a short walkout."

"Ann Arbor Public Schools fully respects and supports the first amendment rights of students and understands the desire many students have to raise their voices and express their thoughts. Our students shared their thoughts in a respectful and peaceful way, without any disruption or interference with the orderly conduct of learning or school activities, per district policy," the statement read.

Cluley said the district will continue to vigorously support the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Ann Arbor Police Department.

"Much of this work, out of respect for the privacy of this family, is not public at this time," Cluley said. "As everyone is aware, mental health needs are an ongoing concern throughout our communities, and additional support is needed."