Carlsbad Middle School Student Found Dead At Home

Jennifer Cortez, 14, Attended Calavera Hills Middle School

A crisis team met with students at a Carlsbad middle school Monday to help them cope with the apparent suicide of a classmate over the weekend, school officials said.

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Jennifer Cortez, 14, was found dead in her family's Oceanside home Sunday, according to a statement from the Carlsbad Unified School District and Calavera Hills Middle School, where the eighth-grader was a student.

"I remember her as a very cheerful, outgoing, happy student. I can't recall a time when she didn't have a smile on her face," CUSD District Superintendent John Roach said.

In the statement, Calavera Principal Catina Hancock said Cortez was a great student with a ready smile and many interests and friends.

"I am devastated," Hancock wrote. "Jennie was a sweet, beautiful, 13-year-old girl who played in our school orchestra and always had a smile on her face. On Friday, we bumped into each other in the hall and shared a laugh. She displayed no apparent symptoms of depression. We are all so sad and confused."

Her former principal, Devin Vodicka, said her family was involved with her school and supportive of her.

"It just makes it that much harder to understand," said Vodicka.

A Facebook page titled "R.I.P. Jenny Cortez" was created in her memory within hours of her death. Friends posted messages about wearing bright colors today instead of black in her honor. She told people if she ever died, she wanted them to wear bright colors, one message read.

"It's probably one of the hardest things that school staff have to do is to deal with the death of a child," Roach said.

Alfredo Aguirre, director of San Diego County's Mental Health Services Department, said teen suicide can happen for any number of reasons like trauma, depression, family troubles, sudden loss or even just being a teenager.

"Middle school is often where there's a lot of change happening developmentally," Aguirre said.

He added that noticing changes in your child's behavior may make all the difference.

"Really the change in routine, the change in interest, school performance is a big one," said Aguirre. "It's important to ask the question, to sit down, not in a punitive way but just find out what's going on."

No further details regarding the death were immediately available from the county medical examiner's office, which handles such cases.

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