Centennial High School students and faculty have been left reeling after it was discovered that a student died in an accident on Sunday.
Principal Dean Juola said a school-wide moment of silence was held on Tuesday for Clayton Boen, a sophomore who died after he fell through the window of a vehicle that was being driven by an impaired minor. Boen was the only Centennial student in the car.
“It’s somber,” Juola said of the school climate on Tuesday. “The mood definitely matched the [foggy] weather this morning. There’s a sense of grief.”
Juola said five counselors and three mental health specialists with the Kern High School District were deployed on Tuesday to help students. He said they are expected to stay through at least the rest of the week.
“It’s difficult for students – and even some of the teachers and staff – to work through the idea that Clayton was here one day and gone the next,” he said. “We’re hoping that having the counselors there helps them through the process.”
Students have had different reactions to Clayton’s death, Juola said. Some of them were sad or angry while others have treated the news with indifference.
“There are different stages of accepting a death,” he said. “We’re trying to help them process it.”
While Juola said he didn’t know Clayton prior to his death, when he received text messages from Athletic Director Tom Haskell telling him about Sunday’s incident, the news still impacted him.
“I was shocked,” he said. “When I heard, I thought ‘we have some families that are going to be hurting.’ You never believe something like this would happen to one of your own students.”
Assistant Principal Chris Sanchez said he had interacted with Clayton several times when he was at school.
“He was a very liked kid here,” he said. “He was tenacious on the [basketball] court – just an amazing young man. I high-fived him many times when he was coming off the court.”
Centennial High senior Ethan Nichols didn’t know Clayton personally, but said that the sophomore's death has still affected him and the school as a whole.
“It’s life-changing,” he said. “Things can happen at any time. One moment he was here and the next he was gone.”
While Ethan said he was saddened to hear about Clayton’s death, he believes the school needs to focus on the future.
“We need to try to move on from the past. We shouldn’t dwell on it,” he said.
Juola said Clayton, who played basketball and football at the school, will be honored during a home basketball game against Garces Memorial on Wednesday night.
A group of parents are also organizing a vigil in memory of Clayton that may be held at the school next week. Juola said they are tentatively looking at Monday.
“They’re trying to find a day that works best for everybody,” he said.
Sunday’s incident marks the second student death for the school in about three years. Sixteen-year-old Ashley Ross was hit by a vehicle near the school and was killed. Drugs or alcohol were not involved in that case.