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Willert addresses media on student deaths

April 19, 2011
By Deb Gau , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - The superintendent of the Marshall School District gave a public statement Monday afternoon in response to the deaths of two middle school students over the weekend. While rumors regarding the deaths needed to be put to rest, Superintendent Klint Willert said it was also important that the community be allowed to grieve, and that families have a chance to talk with their children.

"We are very concerned about the safety and well-being of our students and staff at this very difficult time," Willert said, reading from a prepared statement.

Willert and Cindy Manthey of the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative's Critical Incident Stress Management team spoke to members of the media Monday, and answered questions about the incident. Willert said school administrators and staff have been in communication with the deceased students' families in order to respect their wishes and privacy.

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Photo by Deb Gau
Cindy Manthey, a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management team at the SW/WC Service Cooperative spoke to members of the media on Monday afternoon.

"Based on information provided by the Lyon County Sheriff's Department, we have had two unexpected deaths of Marshall Middle School students," Willert said. Willert said Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz, both 14, died by suicide.

It is believed no other students were involved in the incident this weekend, Lyon County Sheriff Mark Mather said Monday. Investigation of the circumstances of Fentress' and Moravetz's deaths will continue pending medical results, Mather said. No foul play is suspected. The Lyon County Sheriff's Department will not comment further out of respect to the girls' families, Mather said.

Willert and Manthey said grief counselors will continue to be made available to students.

"It's a struggle," Willert said, as students and school staff cope with the loss of Fentress and Moravetz. "It's something that, as a community, we grieve."

"We have been talking with staff and students today," Manthey said, and the schools have gotten a lot of support from the community. Manthey recommended that parents also remember to be there for their children.

"We need to model and talk with our children about how do we solve problems, how do we deal with things that are hard," she said. It is also helpful to teach monitor children and teen's use of cell phones and social media, and to teach them to be cautious about information they receive electronically. "Just because it's something was texted or someone put on Facebook, that doesn't mean it's fact."

Manthey said additional information and resources for parents would be posted on the Marshall Public Schools website.

A public gathering for parents and community members will be held at 5:30 p.m. today in the Marshall Middle School theater, Willert said. Topics addressed at the meeting will include information on typical grief responses for children, how to help, and what has been happening at school. Additional information will also be posted on the school district's website.



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