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5th-grader ends life in plunge at school

A FIFTH-GRADE student - distraught over criticism from her mother - died yesterday morning after apparently jumping from the sixth floor of her school in Shanghai's Zhabei District.

The exact reason for her death, which occurred on the first day of the new semester - a prime time for student suicides - was still under investigation last night, education authorities said.

The girl, an 11-year-old Hubei Province native, transferred to the city school as a fourth-grader. She was an intelligent student and popular among classmates and teachers, according to school officials.

The youngster looked unhappy when she was brought to school yesterday morning by her mother, a single parent, according to Zhu Zhenglin, vice director of the Zhabei District Education Bureau.

The child was seen standing alone by a window in the corridor outside her classroom prior to the first class, seemingly deep in thought. When her teacher approached her, she said she was unhappy because her mother had criticized her for buying street food, which the woman thought was unsanitary, school officials said.

The girl did not act abnormally during the first class. But she carried a chair out of the classroom, put it near a hallway window and ended up on the ground below at around 9am, witnesses said.

School officials called police, and the girl was rushed to Shanghai No. 10 People's Hospital. She died of severe damage to her internal organs at about 10:30am, doctors said.

Zhu said the cause of the girl's death and whether it was a suicide would be determined by the police investigation.

"The student suicide rate is always higher at the beginning of a new semester than at other times," said Wu Guohong, vice director of the psychology department at Fudan University.

Four teenage students were involved in suicides or suicide attempts in the first two days of the autumn semester, prompted by study pressure or parental criticism.

"Schools should pay attention to this phenomenon and develop plans to help students transfer smoothly from holidays to school days," Wu said.

The Zhabei District Education Bureau is now working on plans to address the psychological health of students affected by the girl's death.


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