'I don't know how to feel': Principal commits suicide amidst criminal investigation
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - It's been a difficult week for the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield, where police put the school on a modified lockdown while they investigated A3's Director, Michael Fisher, on Wednesday.
Fisher was placed on administrative leave after reportedly being under investigation for having sexual contact with a student, but later on Wednesday night, police say that Fisher had taken his own life.
The Springfield School District is now rallying around students and staff as they process this loss. We're told that the district's Crisis Intervention Team immediately stepped in, and that A3 is still on their scheduled break.
However, on Friday, the district opened the school, giving students, parents and staff a place to gather and grieve together with trained support.
"This school is, I don't know -- it's not going to be the same anymore," said Casandra Gardner, a student at A3. "I don't know how to feel. It hurts."
Shock and sadness were prominent among students at A3 after police say that Director Fisher took his own life on Thursday evening inside the garage of his Springfield home.
Springfield Police say Fisher was involved in an ongoing criminal investigation connected to sexual involvement with a student. On Wednesday, he was placed on administrative leave, and Police have not yet released further details surrounding the investigation.
Fisher had been with the Springfield School District since 1990. He helped create the Academy of Arts and Academics in 2006, and served as the principal there ever since.
"I've never really had a school that I felt so comfortable, and where I can actually pursue what I want to do when I get older," said Gardner. "And the fact that he put this together and made a safe environment for me, and a place for me that I can feel at home and learn what I want to do, and pursue my dreams -- it just means a lot."
Gardner says that she often had problems with bullying at the school, and Fisher was one of the main people to help her with that.
Now, the district is responding. Their Mobile Mental Health Resource Center will be on campus, and trained counselors, psychologists and even therapy dogs will be available for students and staff, as well as parents who are helping their children process the loss.
"Allow them to grieve," said Sheri Childers, the Springfield School Psychologist. "Give them time and space, but make sure you're connected with them and knowing what they need and if comes to a point where you need help with that, please let someone know, or contact an outside agency."
Childers says that processing grief can take time, and a support staff will have a presence on campus for as long as it's needed.
Springfield Police expect to release more information on the ongoing criminal investigation in the next week. If you are a parent or student who needs to talk to someone, there is a list of resources on the A3 website, or you can give the district a call.