Setting the record straight on Park High School student

A recent article in the Billings Gazette portrayed the life of a student in inaccurately unflattering ways. As principal of the high school where Deon Gillen attended school the past three years, I feel it is important to set the record straight. His parents, Elliott and Sara Gillen, know and agree with what I am putting into words here.  


In the three and a half years I knew Deon, he came far. Deon and his parents developed very close relationships with teachers, school administrators, support staff and coaches. This frequent and open communication, which included his protective and devoted sister, Katlyn, resulted in Deon’s emotional, social and academic growth. Deon was on track to graduate. He was a well-known, well-liked young man, seen by his peers as caring and a champion for the quieter kids.  Deon was forthright and spoke his mind to us when he had concerns about peer relationships. Deon had longtime close friends, girlfriends, and a wide network of acquaintances.  

Deon’s struggles and disappointments at school were those of most teens. Deon dealt with similar issues as most high school students. Deon was not a high school student who was physically afraid of others or who felt school to be a hostile place. He rarely missed school.  We saw Deon as a complex, dear young man, getting stronger and growing to manhood in the safe, caring environment of his school.  

Through this all, we have been in close communication with the Gillens. They have been concerned about students, staff and families. To see an article such as was done by the Gazette that does not accurately portray Deon followed by social media eruptions were devastating to the family and to students and staff in our schools. Furthermore, the article was dangerously inflammatory at a time when we are trying to stem additional suicides that are always potential in these types of situations.  

Students, staff, and the Gillens have signed a giant card at Park High School. That card says, “I choose HOPE because …” As a community and as individuals, we need to remember that if our kids are to have hope, those acts of hope start with us.   


EDITOR’S NOTE: Lynne Scalia is the principal of Park High School.