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Biological Factor




Health Department first believes A first grader dies due bacterial infection.  Later learns it is due to Scarlet Fever

Contingency Planning 

    See how KEYS can help!!

"We had no assurance that this was not contagious." 


May 25, 2006

DEMOTTE, IND. A first grader at Demotte Elementary School left school early Tuesday because he had a fever and complained of a backache. On Wednesday afternoon he was taken to the medical center at Crown Pointe where he was pronounced dead a short time later. The school district was informed that this sudden death was the result of some unknown bacterial infection. As a precautionary measure, all five schools in Demotte were closed on Thursday.

The Jasper County Health Department issued a statement saying, "This is an isolated case of a bacterial infection. The matter is being investigated. There is no public health threat at this time."

Kankakee Valley School Corp posted the following statement on their web site:

The Kankakee Valley Schools were closed Thursday, May 25, 2006, due to the unexpected death of a student due to unknown reasons. In order to ensure the safety of all students, schools were closed. At 10:00 AM on May 25, 2006 the Jasper County Health Department informed the Kankakee Valley Schools that the student's illness was an isolated incident due to a bacterial infection and that there is no threat to the public health. Schools will resume as usual on Friday, May 26, 2006. High school students will be taking final exams. The make-up day is Wednesday, May 31, 2006.


School officials in Demotte did not have any assurance from medical staff nor the Health Department that the cause of death was not contagious. With increasing concern about public health and communal diseases, they took an extreme step of closing all of the schools in the northwest Indiana community. With the proclamation from the Health Department available the next day, the school officials defend their unusual action as leaning toward safety in the face of the unknown. They state that they would do the same again in similar circumstance.

The Health Department continues to investigate the incident.   Based on this on going investigation it is now believed that Scarlet fever caused the eight-year-old boy's death in what authorities believe is the first fatality from the disease in Lake County in two decades.

Our hearts are broken for the family of this student who died so suddenly. We must not overlook this deep personal impact as we examine this event. It is the consensus among the staff at Keys To Safer that this school reacted well to a difficult situation. Not only was their action of closing the schools the proper response, using the internet and other means of notifying members of the district is a perfect example of how to handle a crisis.


This incident is probably from natural causes. But what if it was more deliberate?






Subject Matter Experts from the Keys Multi-disciplinary Team travel the country help school districts develop Crisis Response Plans or Emergency Procedures Policy. It is rare to find a school with a plan that provides for such contingency issues as this one.

There are issues within this event that every school should be discussing and pondering. First, whatever bacteria got into this child had to have a path of infection. Was it something he or she ingested or touched? Was and is that bacteria still inside the school? How did it get there? Could this have been a deliberate infection? Was this a trial run for a larger attack?



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  • Learning what to look for - "Early Warning Signs"

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  • Learn about National Reports on Violence

  • Reported By:
    Frank G. Green
    Executive Director
    Keys To Safer

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