A tragic case in Reno has forced Nevada school districts to examine their death notification policies. High school football player Ridge Barden died a few weeks ago due to bleeding of the brain caused by an on-field head injury. Police and school officials located contact information for the 16-year-old’s father and assumed that all family members were aware of what happened. Tragically,  Jackie Barden, Ridge’s mother, only discovered that her son had died after reading a Facebook post.

“On Facebook, on the news, that’s how I had to learn of my son’s death,” she told a local ABC News affiliate. Jackie spent hours trying to find more information and was never contacted by police or representatives from her son’s school. “We waited all the way up until the next day and still got no phone calls.” Because of the lapse in time, she was not able to go view her son’s body. Police Chief Dan Mack has publicly expressed regret for his department’s failure to attempt to notify both parents and has vowed to do so in the future and the local school superintendent emphasized the importance of divorced families ensuring that contact information for both parents is made available to the schools.

We can’t help but to wonder…even if the divorce between Ridge’s parents was a nasty one, why didn’t his father ensure that his mother was notified of his passing before it hit the news? However, considering the incredible speed of the internet, that may have been impossible.

A college friend of mine was killed in an accident last year and many of our classmates learned of his passing via Twitter and Facebook. I was lucky to have another friend who called me before I could discover what had happened that way and came over to tell me in person. Even still, seeing people Tweet “Who was he?” and getting texts from people who didn’t know we were good friends asking if I knew him was quite overwhelming…I cannot even begin to imagine what Jackie Barden went through finding out about her own son’s death in such a way.

Have you ever learned of a death or some other such tragedy via social media? 

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