Did being "scared straight" go too far? On January 11, 16-year-old Corey Walgren committed suicide after being confronted by police at his school. His parents believe that the interrogation caused their son to kill himself and are speaking out.
According to an investigative feature in the Chicago Tribune, the incident began when Walgren was questioned about having a video on his phone of a consensual sexual encounter with a fellow classmate at Naperville North High School and whether he shared the content with friends. A cop and dean questioned the teen about having "child pornography" and allegedly threatened that he'd be put on the state's sex offender registry. Walgren had no criminal history and had never been in serious trouble at school.
Per records, a female classmate had told the dean in January that Walgren had a recording of their sexual encounter and he was playing it for friends.
No pornographic images were found on Walgren's phone but there was an audio file of the encounter. Records show that the police did not intend to pursue charges but they wanted Walgren to understand the seriousness of the content and its effect on his classmate.
After the meeting, Walgren walked to downtown Naperville and committed sucide by falling off the roof of a parking deck. He did not have any known prior mental health issues.
"I think they wanted to scare him straight," the teen's mother, Maureen Walgren, said. "Instead, they scared him to death."
In a statement to the Tribune, Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall called the teen's death a tragedy but said the officer who handled the questioning acted appropriately. "At the time of the incident, the Police Department determined that the school resource officer followed proper policies and procedures."
The teen's parents plan to file a lawsuit against the school district and the police department in hopes that future incidents involving minors are handled differently. Neither parent was present during the questioning; Maureen arrived at the school in time to hear about the suicide. "There has to be a change in their policy and their procedures," she said. "Corey's death cannot go by with no meaning at all."
[Photo: Family photo]