Penn track athlete's death spurs ex-teacher's petition

Holleran
Holleran
Posted: March 11, 2014

THOUSANDS of people affected by the suicide of Penn freshman Madison Holleran have signed an online petition urging universities to become more proactive before and after such tragedies.

The petition, posted on MoveOn.org by a former teacher of Holleran, seeks a "Madison Holleran Law" in New Jersey, requiring universities to keep statistics on suicides and attempted suicides by students and to provide them to the parents of prospective students.

"It seems, unfortunately, that suicides have become a regular occurrence on campuses," the retired teacher, Ed Modica, told the Daily News last night. "This would allow parents to know what's going on and the parents could delve into those issues before school begins."

Modica, 64, of Totowa, Passaic County, was Holleran's fifth-grade teacher at Brookside School in Allendale, N.J.

He said there's been a "void" in his heart since Jan. 17, the night the freshman track athlete jumped to her death from a parking garage on Spruce Street, leaving a note and gifts for her family.

"She had that infectious smile," Modica said. "She was a friend to anyone."

Holleran's family had said the 19-year-old was having suicidal thoughts and was seeking help. Modica said Holleran was feeling a self-imposed pressure to maintain perfection in the classroom and on the Ivy League track.

As of last night, the petition had almost 3,200 signatures, with names of people from 31 states and five countries, Modica said. He said he's reached out for support to elected officials including New Jersey U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, with the blessing of Holleran's family.

Modica, according to the petition, is also looking for colleges to provide certified suicide-prevention counselors for students.

In a cover story last month, the Daily News reported that authorities said compiling statistics on student suicides was complicated by issues of whether to include students who die off campus, students who are no longer enrolled, or deaths that families decline to classify as suicides.


The petition can be found at petitions.moveon.org/sign/ passage-of-the-madison.


On Twitter: @JasonNark

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