Nothing is more difficult for a school than dealing with the death of a student.
It was a story I had to cover numerous times during my days at The Carthage Press. Many times it was the result of automobile accidents, some involving drunk driving.
I have only had one time during my 10 years as a teacher when someone who was a student of mine died during the school year. Sixth grader Kelsey Anderson was no longer in my writing class at Diamond Middle School when she died in a trailer fire, but that did not make things any less difficult. Especially considering that school officials did not think it was necessary to call in extra counselors or to prepare students and staff.
Despite the fact that Kelsey was no longer enrolled in my class when she died, I kept thinking of how she rarely spoke in class, and I knew I had not done enough during the nine weeks she had in my class to make an effort to get to know her.
One of the misconceptions about the death of a student is that it will only affect those who knew the student well, those who were his or her friends.
That is not the case.
It is a shattering reminder to students that not even their youth is a guarantee that they will be here tomorrow. For some, it is their first time dealing with death.
Students and staff at South Middle School, where I teach eighth grade communication arts, return from the holiday weekend today to face a sad task. Though staff have been informed, many students are not aware that sixth grader Stormy Hinklin, a Student Council member, is no longer with us.
We knew before the break that despite her youth, she suffered an apparent heart attack several days ago and was in critical condition at a local hospital. Students were working on cards for Stormy before we left for Thanksgiving...cards that she will never see.
My heart goes out to Stormy's family. I cannot even imagine having to go through the death of one so young, one who had been so full of life, and had so much to contribute.
I also feel for her teachers and for the sixth graders and Student Council members who will deal with her death today and for quite a while to come. We have a staff meeting scheduled for 7:30 this morning, and counselors will be available for students and staff members who need them.
And even though my eighth graders, for the most part, did not know Stormy, judging from my experience at Diamond when Kelsey Anderson died, I know it is not going to be easy for them.
I never had the privilege of meeting or talking with Stormy Hinklin, and that is my loss.
Her death, a loss for South Middle School and for those who knew her, is a reminder that we need to appreciate life and take advantage of every moment we have on this earth.