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Marlee Foundation offers assistance to Lawrence County Board of Education

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

The Moulton Advertiser By Chelsea Retherford Staff Writer Feb 6, 2019

The Lawrence County Board of Education heard from Wendy and Scott Norwood, co-founders of the Marlee Foundation, during its regular board meeting on Monday.

The Marlee Foundation, which was founded in January in honor of the Norwoods’ daughter, Marlee, listed goals and a mission for suicide prevention among teens in Lawrence County for 2019. Marlee Sutton took her own life at the age of 13 on March 12, 2018. 

“This forever changed our lives,” Wendy Norwood said. “The morning of the 13th, I realized waking up to our reality was much harder than going to sleep to it. I felt the need to cry out to others. To use our brokenness as a way to bring awareness to the rest of the community.”

“Our most immediate goal is to raise money,” Norwood said.

She told the board the foundation has planned five fundraising events to take place throughout the county this year. 

The foundation has found a need for student counselors trained in child development throughout the county’s school system.

The Norwoods recognized emotional trauma in their daughter who was old enough to remember the death of her biological father. 

The Norwoods also believe cyber-bullying and access to social media at a premature age also contributed to her suicide. 

“(The foundation) is embarking on a new journey for early intervention and detection among children,” Norwood said. “Whether the trauma is small or large, we have found a multitude of students with mental health issues.”

Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said after March 12, the issue of providing a counselor or counselors for Lawrence County schools became a tangible one. 

“We live in a dangerous time, where kids have access to—at the touch of their fingers—many good things, but many bad things as well,” Smith said. “I’m fully committed to this, as I’m sure the board is as well. Ultimately we have to do what’s right for our kids.”

Smith said the board has started addressing this issue by meeting with school principals. Decisions for further steps will be made after meetings on school-level administrators, the superintendent said. 

“We’re here to help,” Scott Norwood said. “Our foundation is here to help the school system and our kids in any way we can. Our kids are our future.”

Norwood, who also serves as Lawrence County coroner, told the school board the foundation intends to raise money for the board with the intention of hiring counselors for each school. 

“We will always have ‘what ifs,’ but we want to turn this negative thing into a positive one for our county.” 

In other business, the school board also granted approval for Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center to file an application with the University of Alabama for a summer expedition camp to take place in June.

The board also approved a payment of $47,473.46 to the Lawrence County Commission after a legal compliance audit led to overpayment findings from December and January.

The board accepted the resignations of part-time Indian Education paraprofessionals Latasha Parker and Frances Spillers, and the retirement of School Nurse Jane Carroll, effective March 1. 

The Lawrence County Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting on March 4 at 5 p.m. unless a special meeting is called.

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