French Catholic school copes with Belle River student’s death
Members of the French Catholic school in the center of a great tragedy involving an 11-year old Belle River girl are still reeling.
Aja Chandler’s parents believe that she accidentally killed herself while experimenting with the choking game.
Local school boards are addressing the issue, head on. An emergency response team led by the school's psychologist has been inside Chandler’s school since the incident occurred.
While studies continue at Ecole Pavillon Des Jeunes in Belle River, the focus right now is on students as they begin the healing process.
The flags in front of the school remain at half-mast and will likely stay there for some time. Inside, the mood is sombre an entire school community devastated by the loss of one of their own.
“You develop emotional ties and links and when they are severed,” says Joseph Picard, French Catholic school board director. “It’s hard to get through."
A team of social workers are helping staff and students through the bereavement process. Picard says they will remain on hand as long as necessary.
“It's difficult and it's a process that varies from one child to the next. Some get over quickly, some it takes a lot longer and that's why we're there to talk and to listen."
In light of this tragedy, local school boards are already focussing their efforts on how to move forward.
“We're hearing from principals, teachers are asking questions,” says Sharon Pyke, superintendent of education at the Greater Essex County District School Board.
Because those questions are coming in, information bulletins have gone home to public school board employees to make them aware of the incident and to help them improve communication lines.
“What the term means and what other games are being played,” says Pike. “Information has gone out to staff today about terms and what they mean and when a child comes to you, how should you respond as a professional."
School officials along with the student council are in the process of discussing what memorial can be put in place at the school in Aja's memory.