Grief counsellors, therapy dogs at Mississauga schools to help teens cope with slaying of 14-year-old

Grief counsellors and therapy dogs are stationed at two Mississauga schools on Monday to help teens cope with the death of a 14-year-old classmate.

Riley Driver-Martin's body was discovered last Friday in a park near Clarkson Secondary School

Clarkson Secondary School, shown here, and Hillside Public School have grief counsellors and therapy dogs to support students and staff Monday following the death of 14-year-old Riley Driver-Martin. (CBC)

Grief counsellors and therapy dogs are stationed at two Mississauga schools on Monday to help teens cope with the death of a 14-year-old classmate. 

Riley Driver-Martin was found dead with "obvious signs of trauma" near a Mississauga park last Friday. Two brothers, both 20, have been charged with second-degree murder in the alleged slaying. 

The park where Driver-Martin's body was discovered is not far from Clarkson Secondary School — where the Grade 9 student attended classes — and neighbouring Hillside Public School.

"We know when there's a violent death like this in the community that can have a tremendous impact on the well-being of those that live here," said Carla Pereira, spokesperson for Peel District School Board.

Monday marks the first day back at school for students grappling with news of Driver-Martin's death. A sombre mood hovered over the school as a number of students showed up wearing homemade T-shirts with the letters "LLRM" emblazoned on the front. The acronym stands for: "Long Live Riley Martin."

The Canadian flags outside the Clarkson and Hillside schools are also flying at half-mast today in his memory. 

A memorial table for Riley Driver-Martin is set up at Clarkson Secondary School for students and teachers to write messages or share their memories with his family. (Submitted by Carla Pereira)

Classes are scheduled as usual and staff have set up a memorial table in both libraries for students and teachers to share their condolences with Driver-Martin's family. 

"The sentiment of the family is one that's in crisis, so they're struggling with the news of the passing of their child, and they've asked us to be respectful of their privacy and we're doing that," Pereira told CBC Toronto. 

This morning, some students huddled together with friends, while others have chosen to talk to counsellors, she said, pointing out that everyone processes grief differently. 

"We can't expect that staff and students will be unaffected and they can just continue with their regular school day," Pereira said. 

In a letter to students, Clarkson principal Mary Zammit said following normal routines at difficult times can help with healing.

"It's important to remember that death can affect students in a variety of ways," she wrote.

"Students who have experienced a recent trauma or death in the family may particularly need additional support."

Counsellors will stay as long as they're needed, added Pereira.

Peel Region's 25th homicide this year

Driver-Martin's death marks Peel Region's 25th homicide of 2018. The teen is the area's youngest victim this year, yet little is known about his cause of death. 

Driver-Martin left his home on Thursday night and didn't return. Officers discovered his body in a laneway near Meadow Park, in the area of Truscott Drive and Southdown Road, shortly before 8 a.m. Friday.

Forensic investigators search a laneway leading to Meadow Park where police discovered Riley Driver-Martin's body early Friday. (CBC)

The high school student hadn't been reported missing and it's unclear why he left his home, Peel Regional Police said. 

Spokesperson Const. Iryna Yashnyk has declined to comment on the nature of Driver-Martin's injuries or how he was killed. 

Mark Mahabir turned himself into police on Saturday evening. His brother, Nicholas Mahabir, was arrested Friday night. The pair are charged with second-degree murder in relation with Driver-Martin's death. They both remain in custody, but are set to have bail hearings later this month. 

A vigil for Driver-Martin is scheduled for tonight at the Clarkson Community Centre and Library.

Funeral to take place Thursday

A funeral for the teen will take place Thursday afternoon in Etobicoke.

"It is with heavy hearts we announce the tragic passing of Riley James Driver-Martin," the boy's obituary states, noting he was the eldest of three children. 

A GoFundMe account has also been set up by a family friend to help Driver-Martin's parents cover the cost of his funeral. In just one day, the page has raised almost $5,000. 

"All that knew Riley said he was a charming and polite young man with a heart of gold," Tierra Santa wrote in a GoFundMe post. "His presence is greatly missed at the family table."

With files from CBC's Ali Chiasson