"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
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
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
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 Schools.com 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
This incident is
probably from natural causes. But what if it was more deliberate?
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?
What you do makes a difference!
Frank G. Green
Keys To Safer Schools.com
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