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Newton mourns death of high school junior

NEWTON — A Newton South High School junior died suddenly Thursday morning, deeply shaking a city still reeling from the loss of two teenagers in October.

Roee Grutman’s death was announced “with great sadness” by School Superintendent David Fleishman in an e-mail to the community.

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Officials did not release details of the cause of death. Authorities do not consider it suspicious, and no foul play is suspected, the superintendent said.

Newton police referred calls to the Middlesex district attorney’s office, where a spokesman said only that the office had responded to “an unattended, nonsuspicious death in Newton.”

“The death of any young person is a terrible tragedy,” Fleishman wrote. “The shock of this loss is magnified by the deaths of two Newton students last fall.”

Grutman is the third high school student in Newton to die since October, when Newton North senior Karen Douglas and Newton South sophomore Katie Stack took their own lives within two weeks of each other.

Cars lined the road late Thursday afternoon in front of the Grutmans’ home in the city’s Oak Hill village. A woman who described herself as a friend of the family said his parents were grieving, and that it was too soon for them to speak publicly about their son.

‘The shock of this loss is magnified by the deaths of two Newton students last fall.’

DAVID FLEISHMAN,  Newton superintendent of schools 
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Newton South principal Joel Stembridge, as well as principals from Oak Hill and Memorial-Spaulding where Grutman’s siblings are students, paid their respects at the family home, Fleishman said.

“It’s a very tough day,” he said in an interview.

Grutman was a gifted student who had played football and was a member of Newton South’s speech and debate team, Fleishman said. “He was a very engaged, communicative, well-known student.”

Grief counselors were available to speak with students and families Thursday night at Newton South and will be at the school again Friday, said Fleishman. He encouraged parents to contact students’ guidance counselor, social worker, or school psychologist if they have any concerns.

In addition, a community forum will be held Tuesday night at the Newton South High School auditorium “to help process the tragedies we have faced this school year,” he wrote. The forum will have a range of experts who will explain to parents how to talk with children about a sudden death, and how to support them following tragic events. The mayor and other school leaders will also attend.

“I fully recognize that this is a very trying time for the city of Newton,” Fleishman wrote. “I am hopeful that together, we will provide the support, care, and kindness necessary to move forward.”

Mayor Setti Warren said his office has been in close contact with the superintendent.

“The loss of Roee Grutman is a horrible tragedy,” he said. “As the mayor of this city and as a parent, it was heartbreaking to learn of the loss of one of our young people. My thoughts and prayers go out to Roee’s family and friends.”

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@globe.com.

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