Police Reveal Nature of Emergency that Canceled Classes at Ankeny Elementary School

Ankeny Schools (WHO-HD)

ANKENY, Iowa — Classes have been canceled at one Ankeny elementary school for Wednesday because the body of a deceased adult was found outside of the school.

Ankeny Police say the death was a suicide. A janitor arrived at school early Wednesday morning and found a woman who appeared to be in her early 20s had hung herself on the playground. The woman’s name has not been released.

E-mails went out to parents around 7:45 a.m. notifying them that classes at Westwood Elementary at 2920 NW 9th St. would be cancelled for the day. This is the original message parents were sent:

Westwood Elementary Cancelled Wednesday, October 4

Due to an emergency outside of Westwood Elementary, classes will be canceled today at Westwood Elementary. All activities scheduled for the building will be canceled. All other buildings will remain in session.

As more information is available, a follow-up message to notify parents will be sent via this system.

At 9:19 a.m. the school sent out more information with basic details of the incident and tips on how to handle the situation with children:

ANKENY, Iowa (October 4, 2017) –  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:

Anger                                                 Guilt                                              Fear of abandonment

Denial                                                Regression                                   Increase dependence on adults

Change in behavior                                 Silence                                   Disinterest in preferred activities

Withdrawal                                              Over activity                         “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.

Thank you,

Dr. Bruce A. Kimpston

Superintendent of Schools

Channel 13 does not normally report on suicides but because of the public nature of the incident, we felt it best to keep the community informed.