Family upset over yearbook omission of suicide victim: ‘It felt like he didn’t matter’

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LOVELAND, Colo. -- A family is pushing back against a school district after they say their son, who died by suicide, was left out of the yearbook.

“That’s him, number nine,” Teresa Brunner said.

Charlie Brunner was a stand-out athlete, involved in football, basketball and track. He was about to begin his senior year at Thompson Valley High School.

“He was that cool, popular, goofy, typical teen,” Brunner said.

With college football recruits knocking at the door, his future seemed promising, but one night last June, it all came to an abrupt end.

“He went to bed and he killed himself that night in our basement. It was a complete -- nobody knew. It was a complete shock to everyone,” Brunner said.

It was a shock for this mother to lose her only son, who would have graduated at the end of May. When the school yearbooks came out, Brunner said there was a troubling surprise.

“He would have been right there,” Brunner said pointed to a page in the yearbook.

Charlie Brunner's picture is not among the Class of 2018.

“It felt like a gut punch -- like he didn’t matter. Kids were texting me and calling me upset that he wasn’t in there. If they didn’t tell me I wouldn’t probably have known. I thought he would be in the regular spot along with the other girl, Kati Janssen, who also died by suicide but was not included in there,” Brunner said.

KDVR reached out to the Thompson School District. Officials said: "Due to sensitivity concerns for families and the school community, the district does not include students in the yearbook who have passed away prior to the beginning of the school year.”

The district also said school staff did not receive a photo of Charlie Brunner, but his mother was under the impression the school would use his picture from the year before.

“The school is not communicating with me. I’ve emailed, and they don’t want to talk about it,” Brunner said.

While it’s too late to add Charlie Brunner's photo now, his mother said she hopes going forward, the district will honor every student who dies, no matter the time of year.

“I don’t ever want a family to have to have that added anguish on top of – it’s already hard enough,” Brunner said.

The yearbook staff included a photo of Charlie Brunner's football jersey.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

Below is the complete statement from the Thompson Valley School District:

"Thompson Valley High School and Thompson School District continue to mourn the loss of Charlie Brunner. He was a very special person and is deeply missed by his friends and staff members throughout the district.

Due to sensitivity concerns for families and the school community, the district does not include students in the yearbook who have passed away prior to the beginning of the school year. School staff did not receive a photo or specific information that Charlie's family wanted to be included. However, a photo commemorating a ceremony in Charlie's honor at a TVHS football game this season was included in the opening pages of the yearbook. In addition, students have arranged for Charlie's photo to be included in a photo presentation that will be displayed at an upcoming senior event and at this year's graduation ceremony."

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