LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. — "We have some sad news to share..."
It's a letter no school wants to write, but one the principal of Oak Grove Elementary needed to send after one of their own students passed away this week.
Mason Hanahan, a second-grader at Oak Grove, was shot and killed when a masked man invaded a home on Cedar Vale Drive Tuesday. A gunfight ensued, and the 8-year-old was fatally caught in the crossfire.
When Hanahan's school learned of his tragic death, they let parents know they were doing all they could to take care of their kids.
One Hanahan's classmates has already noticed the 8-year-old's absence.
"He was always so nice, and now I'll never see him again," the second-grader said.
The school's principal Sherry Cariens hoped to keep the school day as normal as possible, but had counselors and psychologists ready if any student needed them.
"We know how hard something like this is even for adults to understand," the letter stated.
Hanahan's family gave the school permission to share the news of his passing, but also asked for privacy during this difficult time.
Here is the full letter sent to parents:
Dear OGES Parents:
We have some sad news to share. One of our second graders, Mason Hanahan, passed away. His family gave us permission to share this news. However, they also asked for privacy.
We chose to send this information to you because we want you to know what we are doing to support your children and our staff.
Our goal is to keep the school day as normal as possible. We are all listening to your students’ comments and watching for any signs of distress.
During school, district and school counselors and psychologists will be available to meet with your child should the need arise. However, if we have any concerns about how your child handles this, we will contact you directly by telephone.
We know how hard something like this is even for adults to understand. This letter contains some general suggestions about how you can help your child. In general, after something like this, children need to know that they are safe and that their home is safe. Remember, too, that children look to the adults in their lives, watch how they handle grief and loss, and take their cues from you as they approach difficult situations like this.
If you do discuss the death, use very simple language and ideas as death is a very hard concept for young children to grasp. Listed below are a few general strategies you may choose to use to talk with your child about death:
- Give honest, brief explanations.
- Avoid over-answering questions.
- Keep responses at the child’s level of understanding.
- Listen and hug.
- Use a calm, reassuring voice.
- Avoid forcing the discussion.
- Remind children it is natural and acceptable to show emotion when someone we love dies.
If you are worried about your child’s reaction, please do not hesitate to call our school at 803-821-0100. We are here to support your students through this.