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3 teens arrested in connection with Stanfield shooting death

FLORENCE — Three teens have been arrested and charged as adults in connection with the shooting death of another teenager in Stanfield earlier this month.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Thursday that Benjamin Villa, 15, Emilio Acosta, 14, and Genaro Acosta, 16, were booked into the Pinal County Adult Detention Center on suspicion of first-degree murder.

All three have been remanded to adult court, according to PCSO.

“I want to thank our deputies and detectives for their hard work and determination in this case to get these suspects in custody so quickly,” said Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.

At 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 1, deputies responded to a call of shots fired at a home in Stanfield. At the home they found 16-year-old Isaac Rosales had been shot following a confrontation with an unknown person. Rosales was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Sheriff’s officials didn’t immediately disclose what led to the arrests of the three suspects.

Arizona health officials warn of suicide risk during pandemic

CHANDLER — State officials are trying to stave off what they fear could be a spike in suicides, possibly linked to the COVID-19 outbreak and the depression that can go along with that among victims and family members.

Health Director Cara Christ acknowledged Thursday she has no hard figures on suicides since the outbreak. That’s because she said it takes six months for her agency to get death certificates.

But Gov. Doug Ducey said the indications are there.

“According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Americans reporting symptoms of depression registered a threefold jump compared to before the pandemic,’’ he said. And Ducey said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one out of every 10 adults reported thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days, more than double from two years earlier.

He said these are more than numbers, representing family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances.

“Many of them are struggling during this time of increased isolation and heightened stress,’’ the governor said. “And we must be there for them.’’

And Ducey said some groups are more vulnerable, including seniors, veterans and young people.

Christ said Arizona already had a problem before the pandemic. She said a survey of teens produced some “alarming insights’’ about the issue.

For example, she said that 40 percent of those in grades 9 through 12 said they felt so sad and helpless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities. That, Christ said, is higher than national estimates.

But it doesn’t stop there.

She said nearly 21 percent of high schoolers indicated they had contemplated suicide, 16 percent had made a plan, 10 percent actually attempted to kill themselves and 4 percent said that attempt resulted in an injury that required medical attention.

And even before kids get to high school, it’s an issue: Suicide is the leading cause of death in Arizona of children age 10 through 14.

“As a mother, this information is worrisome,’’ Christ said.

While Thursday’s event was at Hamilton High School in Chandler, several speakers said suicide is not just an issue for teens.

Wanda Wright, director of the state Department of Veterans’ Services, rattled off her own statistics.

She said veterans account nationally and in Arizona for 18 percent of total suicides, twice their share of U.S. population. And Wright said the risk of suicide for veterans in Arizona is three time higher than non-veterans — and four times higher for older veterans.

State schools chief Kathy Hoffman and Jami Snyder, director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, detailed some of the programs being offered to provide mental health counseling, many of them through schools.

Ducey also boasted about the state putting $20 million in the budget last year for additional guidance counselors. But schools also can use that cash for social workers and school resource officers, the latter category made up of police officers stationed at schools.

The governor did not dispute that, even with that, the state has among the highest ratio of students per available guidance counselor. He said, though, the dedicated dollars are a major investment in a state that several years ago had a $1 billion deficit.

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SCVUHSD board member thinks kids should be in school now

ELOY — The Santa Cruz Valley Union High School District has yet to set a date for in-person learning and at least one school board member is not happy about it.

Superintendent Orlenda Roberts plans to meet with school staff in the next couple of days to develop a plan with different options on how and when to return to in-person learning.

“Dr. (Orante) Jenkins and I will be meeting with the staff to start the planning for how we will divide the kids up for hybrid and what we will need to do as far as going from virtual to in-person,” Roberts said.

While there was no agenda item about reopening the high school, the board had a brief discussion about the topic before adjourning the meeting on Thursday.

Board member Thomas Gil was very adamant about having all the students return to school at once, stating it would be more work for teachers with different learning options.

“It’s going to be double work,” Gil said. “They’re going to have to teach half the school one day and half the school the next day. There are schools going full-time already. I think we need to be in school.”

Board President Elizabeth Flores brought up the issue by saying that having all students return at once could be risky as other schools have had issues where teachers decide they do not want to return to school because it is unsafe.

“We might not have teachers,” Flores said. “Look at all the other issues on the flip side to that, bringing them all in. There is that issue where teachers are calling in or they’re not able to do class because of the situation, so that’s also a concern.”

Gil expressed his concern that with the current online model, students have two days where they only check in online and then there’s no accountability for whether they actually spend the rest of the day doing schoolwork.

“These are kids, they’re young adults but they still are kids,” Gil said. “If they can play hooky and not get in trouble, they’re going to play hooky. We need to be in school, this isn’t helping any of our kids. They’re going to fall behind; we’ve already fallen behind and we’re still behind. I don’t get how some schools can and we can’t.”

Flores noted that there needs to be some type of plan to address that issue.

Board member Richie Reyes agreed that he thinks kids need to go back to school but he is a little apprehensive as to whether the district can manage that.

“Have we communicated with the teachers on how they feel about returning to school and the additional workload if they do the hybrid or the online?” Reyes said. “Do we have a release after, in the event that a kid becomes positive or a teacher becomes positive, how do we work to solve those problems because I’m not sure we have the resources available for substitutes and where we’ll put the kids at the school?”

The Governing Board plans to have a work session prior to its regular meeting next month to discuss the school’s reopening plan.

During the meeting the board approved having football coach Rishard Davis continue as athletic director for fiscal year 2020-21.