13-year-old found dead at Orange County middle school; death investigation underway

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The Orange County Sheriff's Department is conducting a death investigation after a 13-year-old was found dead on campus Tuesday morning at a local middle school.

At approximately 6:30 a.m., deputies were dispatched to Don Juan Avila Middle School, located at 26278 Wood Canyon Drive in Aliso Viejo, after receiving reports about an apparent suicide on campus. 

A custodial worker discovered the body of a 13-year-old male student in an open area on campus, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Investigators said no note was left behind. Authorities are conducting a full investigation into his death. The name of the deceased has not been released. 

Due to the ongoing investigation, both Don Juan Avila Elementary School and Don Juan Avila Middle School were closed on Tuesday, according to the sheriff's office. Students were rerouted to an alternate location. Parents needing additional info were asked to call the school district hotline at 949-234-5575.

Both schools reopened on Wednesday with grief counselors available to students and faculty, according to the sheriff's office.

Kita Curry, the President and CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Center, told FOX 11 that the internet, social media, the pressure to keep up and the possibility of cyberbullying are among the factors that have sent teen suicide rates spiking. Curry said it's crucial that children tell someone if they see a friend struggling or hear thoughts of suicide or of hurting themselves, whether a parent or a teacher. It might betray a trust or confidence but "it's better than going to their funeral," Curry added.   

Many in the community gathered late Tuesday morning for a prayer meeting at a nearby park. 

"We need to be kinder to each other and let students know they are loved and supported when this world seems so dark," said former student Mari Highleyman. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 to speak with someone who will provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

FOX 11's Sandra Endo, Phil Shuman and Ed Laskos contributed to this report.