ANKENY - Local 5 has confirmed that a suicide is the reason why Westwood Elementary with the Ankeny Community School District is closed on Wednesday.
Police told reporters that a janitor saw a car in the parking lot around 4 a.m., called police, and that's when police found a 20-year-old woman in the playground; she had hanged herself.
Many parents told Local 5 that they did not know what was going on or the situation when they arrived at school Wednesday morning to drop off their child. They saw police and firetrucks at the scene, and were informed by school officials that school had been cancelled for the day.
The Ankeny Community School District released the following statement, encouraging those affected to utliize school counselors and the Grief Response Team:
Dear Ankeny Schools Family,
It is a very sad day at Westwood Elementary School. This morning, the body of a deceased adult was found outside our elementary building. This incident was not associated with the school in any way, aside from it being on our property. Classes were cancelled and students who arrived for before and after school programming were rerouted to Rock Creek Elementary school.
This is not related to the Johnston threats.
Counselors and social workers were sent to Westwood Elementary to assist staff. Westwood Elementary school will remain closed today, Wednesday, October 4. All other Ankeny schools are in session. Westwood Elementary will resume classes and activities tomorrow, Thursday, October 5.
This death is sure to raise emotions, concerns, and questions for our school district and especially our students. Our school district has a Grief Response Team made up of professionals trained to help with the needs of students and school personnel at difficult times. We have activated that team and have counselors available for any student who may need or want help or any type of assistance surrounding this death. Administrators met with school staff this morning, and our counselors and staff members are dedicating time to meet with and counsel staff and students who have been impacted by this tragic event.
School counselors will continue to be available for students who may need or want help, or for any type of assistance in relationship to this loss.
If counselors or members of the Grief Response Team see a student is feeling sad or struggling with emotions about this death, they also would take the step of contacting that student’s parents directly, so that they are aware and can monitor and talk further with their child at home.
As you spend time with your child(ren), be mindful of some common emotions and reactions to grief:
-Fear of abandonment
-Increase dependence on adults
-Change in behavior
-Disinterest in preferred activities
-“Model” behavior (the perfect child)
When you see these behaviors, you are encouraged to take the following steps:
- Don’t punish regressive behavior.
- Understand your child’s sense of security has been diminished.
- Answer repeated questions patiently.
- Routine and rules are very important for grieving kids. They should return to school as soon as possible.
- Give your child permission to tell others how they feel.
- Teach your children how to honor life.
- If you have concerns about your child regarding this event, or if they themselves have questions, they should not hesitate to contact their school counselor.
Again, if there is anything we can do to support your student, please let us know. We encourage you to continue to respect the privacy of the family as they grieve during this time.
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