DOWNINGTOWN, Pa. -- A yearbook controversy is piling on a new round of heartache for an already grief-stricken family in Chester County.
14-year-old Rose Rondinelli was a true light for her family, always smiling and making others laugh. Sadly, just a few months ago, she lost her life.
Her family says her battle with depression was just too much.
"She was very good at hiding it and we didn't realize how much she was struggling because she put on a really good face for everybody, and in September she took her own life," said Roses's Mom, Beth Rondinelli.
Big sister, Rachel, remembers the day she got the news about Rose. It changed her life forever.
"My parents came in and I go, 'How is she doing?' And it was just, 'She passed away.' And just like, your world comes crashing down," said Rachel.
The family is still grieving and trying to heal. They say the recent discovery that Rose was not pictured or even mentioned in the yearbook at Downingtown High School East was like pouring salt into a wound. They admit she wasn't present for picture day, but say to exclude her totally is like erasing her memory.
"We are not looking for a tribute for Rose, just 14 letters: Rose Rondinelli not pictured. That would have been sufficient, that would have sufficed that they recognized she was a student at the school," Beth said.
The family didn't just sit back but jumped to into action.
Rachel created an insert to be placed in the page her sister's picture was supposed to go - page 59. They went to the school along with friends and handed them out.
"It was for all the students that think they are going to be forgotten as well and I just wasn't going to let that happen and Rose isn't here to defend herself. I am the great big sister that has got to stand up because I know she would do the same for me," Rachel said.
"I would think she would be happy with what we are doing. It is inspiring and motivating. It needed to be done, it was just necessary," said student, Eden Shames.
The school district released a statement that reads:
"DHS East and the Downingtown Area School District continue to mourn the loss of Rose Rondinelli. She was a very special person and is deeply missed by her friends and staff members throughout the district. Rose died shortly before student photos of each class were taken on September 11, 2018. These school photos have traditionally been placed in the back of the Senior Class yearbook. Rose will long be remembered, and we cherish the contributions she made to DASD in her short life. We regret any pain we inadvertently caused the Rondinelli family. Our tradition has always been to include all deceased students in the yearbook of what would have been their senior year. Rose's photo will be included in the class yearbook of 2022."
"The death of students need to be treated as any other deaths in a yearbook. If Rose had been killed by a drunk driver or of cancer you can bet her picture would have been in that yearbook," Beth said.
The family is hoping this serves as a learning experience for other districts, to discuss suicide and mental health issues and keep the dialogue open with families that are impacted.
Family of teen suicide victim upset after school excludes her in yearbook
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