Hailey Nailor ID’d as Danbury suicide victim
DANBURY — Police and mall security were already on their way to help 16-year-old Hailey Nailor before she committed suicide Saturday at the Danbury Fair mall.
Police received a call to check on the Danbury High School student and were told she was at the mall’s parking garage, Detective Lt. Mark Williams said. But Williams said when officers arrived at 1:20 p.m., Nailor had already jumped to her death from the garage’s fifth level.
Police said Nailor was alone and her family was notified.
“Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all those affected by this tragic incident,” Williams said in a statement, declining to comment further about the incident.
Police are investigating the case and school officials will review whether bullying played in a role in Nailor’s death, although her family said they do not believe she was bullied.
The state Office of the Child Advocate, which monitors programs that serve children, is reviewing the death to determine if a full investigation is warranted.
“After conducting preliminary review … a determination may be reached to conduct a more comprehensive review of the child fatality,” said Faith Vos Winkel, assistant child advocate.
On Monday morning, barricades and police tape blocked the entrance to the fifth level of the garage. A spokeswoman for the Danbury Fair mall directed questions to the police.
“We are deeply saddened by the events on Saturday,” the spokeswoman said. “Our hearts and thoughts go out to the family.”
Moments before she died, Nailor posted a video to Snapchat, saying she planned to commit suicide. From atop the garage, the wind whipped through her hair.
“She recorded herself contemplating if she should go through with it,” her friend Luis Lopez, 18, said. “She sadly did go through with it.”
Suicide prevention lifeline
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or needs emotional support, help is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The lifeline is free, confidential and available any time by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by visiting www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Screenshots of insensitive comments made by another teenage girl about what happened were shared on social media over the weekend, sparking outrage among those who knew Nailor, as well as those who didn’t.
Lopez said he notified Danbury High School Principal Dan Donovan on Saturday after finding out what happened.
“I emailed him and let him know the situation,” Lopez said. “He responded within seconds and said something will be done about it.”
In a post on the school district’s Facebook page Sunday evening, Superintendent Sal Pascarella referred to “inappropriate information” posted about the student online and said the school’s principal was working with authorities to have it removed.
He recommended parents have a discussion with their children if they had seen the post.
“In addition if at any point you feel your child may be having difficulties, please contact their school principal, counselor or social worker for support,” Pascarella said in the post.
District leaders declined to comment on Monday, but issued a short statement, calling the incident a “terrible tragedy.”
“We are mindful of hurtful comments that continue to circulate on social media that are directed at our schools and other members of our community, and we continue to cooperate with administrators and local authorities to investigate all of the surrounding circumstances,” the statement read.
Students at Danbury High described a somber, but supportive mood in school on Monday. Announcements at the start and end of the school day informed students that counselors were available and encouraged them to seek help if they needed it.
Many students wore black, an effort organized over social media.
“Even though I didn’t know her, it’s a hurt in the community,” said Asiyah McClain, a 17-year-old senior.
Police were also at the school on Monday, while counselors at local districts, including New Milford and Easton, Redding and Region 9, were on call to assist at Danbury High School.
“Since Sandy Hook, that has been a very powerful measure that we’ve implemented in terms of all us in the region working together,” said Laura Olson, New Milford’s director of pupil personnel and special services.
Danbury officials expect the incident and the social media conversations that have followed will put bullying and cyberbullying back in the spotlight, regardless of whether it was related to what happened Saturday.
“I think this is going to cause us to drill down, whether or not it was a part of this,” school board chairman Pat Johnston said. “Anything like this that opens up the conversation, there’s nothing bad that comes from re-examining it.
“One of the upsetting factors of being a parent is that rapid nature of social media,” he continued. “It flies off in a hundred different directions. Nobody knows what’s true and what’s not.”
Teachers and parents must continue to emphasize the importance of compassion for other students as part of the learning experience across Danbury, school board member Emanuela Palmares said.
“Every time there is a tragic, horrific incident like this it should open for conversation for us to see what we’re doing, check if the systems we have in place are the best things we could be doing,” she said. “We should have a conversation, we should talk about this. I think as a community, all of us play a part in this conversation.”
Staff reporters Kendra Baker, Lisa Backus, Amanda Cuda and Rob Ryser contributed to this report.