Teacher Found Hanging In High School Classroom; Students Shocked by Apparent Suicide

CJ Holton places her candle into a group while people gather out front of El Dorado High School on Monday for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of El Dorado photography teacher Jillian Jacobson. (MATT MASIN)
CJ Holton places her candle into a group while people gather out front of El Dorado High School on Monday for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of El Dorado photography teacher Jillian Jacobson. (MATT MASIN)

A 31-year-old teacher died after she apparently hanged herself and was found by several students Monday morning inside an El Dorado High School classroom.

Jillian Jacobson, a photography teacher from Anaheim, was found by several students after another teacher opened her locked classroom around 8:40 a.m., police said.

Students initially tried to go inside but found the door was locked, “and that’s not normal for that hour of the day,” Placentia police Lt. Eric Point said.

Authorities said the students went to an adjacent classroom and found another teacher, who unlocked the door, and then found Jacobsonhanging from the ceiling inside.

The teacher removed Jacobson and set her body on the floor, which is where she was when emergency officials arrived.

“When police and fire arrived, the teacher was in cardiac arrest,” Point said. “After several minutes, she was declared deceased at the scene.”

Jacobson possibly died before paramedics arrived, but every effort was made to try to revive her, Point said.

Investigators suspect Jacobson hanged herself in the classroom. A suicide note was not found, Point said.

Students and teachers in tears

Some students left the campus starting around 10 a.m., and the entire student body – about 1,900 students – was released an hour later.

Leo Amaya, 16, of Placentia said he was in Jacobson’s class his freshman year.

Now a junior, Amaya remembered her as an upbeat teacher who loved to have her photography class outdoors.

He, like many others, was stunned by her death.

“If you take into account how everyone reacted by crying and being upset, you’ll see how everyone was completely surprised that it was her,” he said. “She gave no signs of being depressed or sad.”

Holly, a sophomore who did not disclose her last name, said she planned to take Jacobson’s class next year.

“I was in the class next door when I saw her students run out of the room with pale faces,” she said. “Then teachers were running, then firefighters.”

Students initially were asked to stay in their respective classrooms and eventually were gathered in the gym and told by teachers that “she took her life, but didn’t say how,” Holly said.

Freshman students Tessa Hoover and Maddie Bell were in the classroom next door to Jacobson’s when a couple of students stormed into their digital media arts class and ran straight to their teacher.

“We didn’t know what was happening. Our teacher ran out of our class, then into the room next door,” Hoover said. “Then she started screaming.”

“Right away we knew something really horrible had happened,” she added.

Their teacher returned and locked the door, but didn’t explain what happened, they said. A few minutes later all the students in the digital media arts class were ushered into the gym, where they learned about the apparent suicide.

“It was completely shocking,” Hoover said.

Several students on campus said Jacobson’s father committed suicide and that she constantly advised her students against taking their own life.

Grief counselors were made available for students and teachers, and school was expected to resume with a normal schedule Tuesday, according to Candy Plahy, the assistant superintendent of educational services at Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District.

“Often, having students return to their normal daily routines is the best way to help them cope,” she said. “Going back to school will help restore normalcy.”

Plahy said the “handful” of students who found Jacobson were immediately taken to crisis counselors. It’s unclear whether any of those students will return to classes Tuesday.

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Orange County Register

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