News & Media

‘You never move past it’: School leaders empathize with the communal grief following student deaths

10/31/2018 Lancaster Online By Tom Knapp

Warwick School District is reeling this week from the anguish of a collision by the high school campus on Friday that killed two students and left others injured.

It’s a pain too familiar in some Lancaster County schools.

“We are deeply saddened by the news in Warwick,” Damaris Rau — superintendent for the School District of Lancaster, where McCaskey High School junior Isaia Candelario was killed in a hit-and-run crash in May — said Monday.

“Tragedies such as this one are never easy to cope with,” she said.

Rau said she’s “encouraged by the outpouring of support” from districts throughout the county. Lancaster’s staff wore red on Tuesday in honor of Warwick, she added.

In 2011, four Manheim Central High School students — ninth-grader DeVaughn Lee, 10th-graders Nicolas Bryson and Cody Hollinger and 11th-grader John Griffith — died in a two-car crash in southern Lebanon County.

Superintendent Peter Aiken didn’t work in the district at the time but, he said Monday, memories of the tragedy still resonate.

“I’m not sure you can move past something like that,” he said. “I came here in 2014. Even now, in 2018, it’s still very much part of the Manheim Central community. You never move past it. ... You just learn to live with the new normal.”

News of the crash Friday in Lititz “brings back a lot of hard memories for the Manheim Central community,” he said.

“We stand with Warwick. We are praying for Warwick,” he said.

Manheim Central is among local schools that sent counselors to help Warwick deal with the grief, Aiken said.

Staff and students also responded to a plea throughout the county to wear Warwick’s colors in a show of support.

“Rally the community and lean on each other,” he urged. “It’s all of us in this together.”

Flight Team response

Warwick also is receiving aid from Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit’s Flight Team trauma response program.

John Baker, who heads the IU’s school police department and is a specialist in crime prevention through environmental design, managed the team’s deployment in Manheim Central in 2011 and again this week in Warwick.

The 22 school districts in the Lancaster-Lebanon IU “rush to help each other in times of need,” he said.

“There may be sports rivalries on the field but when it comes to helping out in times of trauma, grief and crisis they are consistently there for each other,” Baker said.

When he asked for eight to 10 volunteers to visit Warwick on Monday, he said, he got dozens of offers from districts throughout the region.

“We are prepared to be there and support a district for as long as they need our help,” Baker said.

The team, he explained, creates a space where students and staff can “gather and feel free to openly express their emotions or simply sit in silence” and reflect on their emotions.

However, Baker said, the work they’re doing in Warwick this week “is the beginning of a process, not an end.”

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