Parents speak out about son's post-expulsion suicide

The parents of a 15-year old student who committed suicide are speaking out, blaming the boy's death on Fairfax County Public Schools' so-called Zero Tolerance policy.


Nick Stuban (Family photo)

Nick Stuban was caught buying synthetic marijuana -- which is legal -- and expelled under the policy. He later took his own life.

The Fairfax County School Board has agreed to address the policy following complaints it is too strict.

Stuban's parents believe the school board's decision to review the disciplinary policy , which is considered one of the strictest in the region, means there is hope other families won't lose a child.

"Everyone liked Nick," said Nick's mother, Sandy Stuban, through a computer translator. She lost her voice to Lou Gehrig's disease and her only child to suicide. She said "Nick became increasing more quiet, more angry and less motivated" after his expulsion.

Nick was once a happy, healthy honors student at W.T. Woodson, according to his parents. But the strapping linebacker and church Accolyte descended into depression after being expelled and transferred for buying a legal synthetic form of marijuana.

"The leading trigger for teen suicide is some traumatic event," said Stuban's father, Steve. He says the Fairfax County School System's handling of the issue crushed Nick's spirit. "He was a tough kid, that mental torture that they put him through caused him to cry."

Since Nick's death, his parents have heard from other Fairfax County families whose children have suffered under the disciplinary process. All are demanding changes.

"This suggests a serious, repetitive problem that deserves review," Sandy Stuban said.

The school board has voted to review the student disciplinary process.

According to the Stubans, it's only the beginning. "This is a good fight," Steve said. "We'll see this through. We'll get this system corrected."

While the discipline policy in Fairfax County Public Schools is reviewed as a matter of course, each year, Superintendent Jack Dale says more attention will be paid to the specific issues that are of concern here. Dale says there is an increase in the reports of teen depression and that factor should be considered in a review of policies on how students are handled.