Family discloses Minnesota elementary principal’s suicide to highlight mental health issue

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MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (WKBT) — The principal of an elementary school in the Twin Cities suburb of Maplewood took his own life, according to a message from the superintendent of Roseville Area Schools.

Principal Dies 2

Brian Koland

Brian Koland’s family asked the district to disclose his cause of death to underscore the issue of mental health.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share with you tragic news about the unexpected death of a member of our school community, Principal Brian Koland,” said the message from Superintendent Jenny Loeck posted on the Roseville Area Schools website.

“Our thoughts and hearts go out to Principal Koland’s family and to all who knew and loved him,” Loeck wrote.

Koland had worked in the school district for nearly 30 years, most recently as principal of Edgerton Elementary School in Maplewood.

“Principal Koland’s family has given us permission to share with you that he died of suicide and asked that we continue to address the importance of mental health supports,” according to the superintendent’s message, which also noted that he had been on a leave of absence since the beginning of the school year.

Before becoming principal of Edgerton, Koland had been principal of Emmet D. Williams Elementary, a special education supervisor, an English language coordinator, a teacher and coach in the district.

Suicide “is a difficult subject for people of all ages to talk about,” Loeck noted, referring people who might be experiencing a mental health crisis or know somebody who is to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  (800) 273-8255, which provides around-the-clock free and confidential support for people in distress.

The district is making social workers and counselors available to students and staff.

Facebook posts of the school district and schools where Koland had worked noted that encouraging students to read was one of his passions.

In 2015, he promised his students at Emmet D. Williams Elementary that he would kiss a kangaroo and spend a night on the school’s roof if they read 500,000 minutes during the school’s Read-A-Thon. He followed through on both vows.

About three years ago, he promised to kiss a pig and shave his head and beard.

During that challenge, he shared a note he received from a student that said, “Mr. Koland I am not reading that much minutes because I want to save your hair and maybe your beard.”

October is National Suicide Prevention Month. In the Coulee Region, the La Crosse Area Suicide Prevention Initiative and Great Rivers 2-1-1 compiled a guide to help people who are struggling with suicide issues.

This story includes information from CBS TV station WCCO in Minneapolis.

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