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By Misty Volaski
Newcomers to the Ojai Valley often say they were drawn here by the area’s reputation as a safe place, where doors go unlocked and everyone knows everyone. Folks who grew up here often take that for granted.
So the killing of a teenage boy, Seth Scarminach, by another teenage boy — due, by some accounts, only to the fact that he was wearing the wrong color — is difficult to process.
How do those who’ve lost a son, a skating buddy, process the grief and shock? Time, some would say, and togetherness.
Both Nordhoff High School and Chaparral High School took action Monday morning, offering students grief counseling and a place to just be together. Dozens of Nordhoff students gathered before school Monday in a prayer, then moved into the cafeteria, where they held each other and cried.
“The first few hours, we were just crying and grieving,” said one student. “After that, we said, ‘Let’s remember Seth for all the good times,’ and we started telling stories about him, even laughing at all the memories. He was the chillest, nicest guy you could ever meet, really funny.”
“He was always cracking jokes,” said another. “He was just really laid-back. He had a ton of friends.”
Many remarked that they were grateful to the school for giving them time and space to grieve. “They gave us lots of opportunities. The teachers just let us out of class if we needed to go.”
Students wrote poems, made posters, and created collages that reminded them of Seth and helped them process their pain. Counselors were available in the cafeteria for students as a group or individually, said assistant principal Susana Arce.
Counselors remain available, Arce added; students can sign up in the office to meet one-on-one. “They are available in case the kids need extra assistance. It’s really hard on young people when something like this happens.”
Across town at Chaparral, principal Marilyn Smith went into each of the classrooms Monday and made the announcement of Seth’s passing. “Seth was one of our independent study students, so they didn’t see him on a daily basis, but everyone knew him,” Smith said. “We also had counselors available for the kids.”
Tuesday, Chaparral students began making a memory book for Seth’s family, filled with fond memories of their friend “Seth-Row.” They will bind it and present it to the family when it’s completed.
Smith said Seth had a lot of friends and was a good student. “He was always polite and mild-mannered. He came to Chaparral not because he was a bad kid, but because it allowed him to go at his own pace, to work quickly, and help in his father’s business. He was on track to graduate early.”
Monday evening, about 200 locals gathered at Libbey Park for a candlelight memorial to Seth. Said one attendee: “It was very peaceful.”
Other organizations across town are reaching out to help as well; the Ojai Athletic Club had a sign-up sheet where locals could volunteer to cook the family dinner one night. But they were inundated with so many volunteers that they now ask folks to donate one of two ways: either through gift cards to local restaurants, or to the Seth Scarminach Memorial Fund at Bank of America, (P.O. Box 1542, Ojai, CA 93024).