Janesville25.4°

Students at Badger question spate of tragedies

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Kayla Bunge
November 11, 2007
— It’s been a tough 12 months for the students and staff at Badger High School.

Five car accidents have claimed the lives of three students, injured 23 more, might result in homicide charges against one and have left a community wondering why.


“Nothing’s related,” Principal Steve McNeal said of the accidents. “It’s just bad luck.”


But the students and staff at Badger are holding up, even in the wake of the latest car crash to affect the school.


Junior Krystal A. Hart, 16, faces a potential charge of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle after a head-on crash that killed a 54-year-old Delavan man Nov. 3.


“I think the student reaction is yet to come on that one,” McNeal said.


He said the students are talking—wondering especially “how much trouble (Hart) is going to get into”—but the school won’t speculate on details.


“It’s not our business,” McNeal said. “That’s not what we’re here for.


“Let them read it in the paper. They don’t need to hear it from somebody here.”


Rather, the school’s role is one of support, he said, for students involved in or affected by an incident and for students who just want to better understand.


Reaction to tragedy takes precedence.


“Everything is dropped,” guidance counselor Tom Leahy said. “Everything we had planned for the day, the week, is put aside. Whenever we lose someone or have a tragedy, that comes to the forefront.”


But the school assumes its role quietly—no announcement, no all-school assembly, just a calm offering of support for those who need it.


Senior Maggie Schmidt, 17, said that approach only fuels the rumor mill. Once the facts are available, she said, the students should be informed.


“Just tell us—not piece-by-piece—flat out,” Schmidt said.


“We’re old enough to accept it,” 18-year-old senior Max Mandich said.


McNeal said the school doesn’t want to place undue burden on staff in times of crisis, which is why they are asked to stick only to the most pertinent facts. Leahy said he doesn’t feel comfortable being a go-to person for the details about an incident.


“It’s not my position,” he said. “My position is to work with the soul and heart of a kid.”


But students continue to question, McNeal said. They want to know why accidents keep happening.


“There’s no answer to that,” he said. “We know things cycle, and we’re in a really bad cycle right now.”


Schmidt said the friendships at Badger have grown closer in light of what’s happened the last 12 months.


“We’re not taking things for granted,” she said.


Although tragedy has the potential to bring people down, Mandich said morale has gone up.


“We’re sticking together,” he said, “not breaking apart.”


ANATOMY OF A CRISIS


-- Principal Steve McNeal is notified a Badger student has been killed in a car accident.


-- McNeal meets with the school’s police liaison or another official to obtain information about the accident.


-- McNeal assembles the school’s crisis team, which includes the principal, psychologist, social worker, guidance counselors, police liaison and others (e.g. teachers or clergy) depending on the situation. The team learns the facts about the accident.


-- The crisis team determines who is affected by the accident and how best to inform staff.


-- The team meets face-to-face with the student’s family and close friends to determine what the school can do to help. It then meets with the student’s teachers and other friends.


-- Counselors from the school or an outside agency gather to offer support to those students and staff.


-- The school contacts parents of grieving students to alert them of the tragedy. Parents often choose to pick up their children from school that day.


-- A counseling center is set up for any other students or staff.


-- The crisis team meets again at the end of the day to evaluate its response and make plans for the next day.


-- An announcement is made the next day regarding the tragedy. A moment of silence is observed. Students are made aware of counseling resources.


ACCIDENT TIMELINE


Nov. 3, 2007: 16-year-old Badger High School junior Krystal A. Hart faces a potential charge of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle after a head-on collision that killed 54-year-old Everardo Chimal Lopez around 2:45 a.m. on County H in Geneva Township.


Oct. 12, 2007: Nine Badger High School junior varsity soccer players are injured in a school bus-sport utility vehicle accident around 6:30 p.m. on Highway 120 in Lyons Township. The driver and passenger in the SUV are killed.


June 21, 2007: 17-year-old Badger High School junior Ross A. Kolb is killed in a car-truck accident around 3:15 p.m. on Westside Road in Linn Township. Three other Badger students are involved in the accident, but not seriously injured.


April 26, 2007: Two 17-year-old Badger High School students, sophomore Brent Michael Konecny and junior Monica Murphy, are killed on their way to school when their vehicle collides with a dump truck around 7:15 a.m. at Highway 120 and County H in Bloomfield Township.


Dec. 7, 2006: 14 students from Badger High School and Lake Geneva Middle School and a bus driver are injured in a chain-reaction accident involving two school buses and an SUV around 3 p.m. on Broad Street in Lake Geneva.



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