WHITELAND — There was a growing memorial outside Whiteland Community High School on Wednesday — flowers, photos and kind words written in chalk on the sidewalk.
Many students are dealing with death and grief for the first time, after a 15-year-old girl drowned in a pool at the high school on Tuesday.
Evelyne Hamlin tells WRTV she was there in the water the morning Alaina Dildine died.
“Sometimes I would look left, just to look at the water or whatever. Yesterday I didn’t. I didn’t look and sometimes I think maybe something could’ve changed if I had saw her or something. If I just looked to the left. I didn’t this time," Hamlin said.
Alaina's family and friends describe her as a “sweet girl with a heart of gold.”
Hamlin remembers her as a friendly face.
“I can’t think of a time where she wasn’t nice to me," she said. "I think I’ll always appreciate that and always remember that."
Superintendent Dr. Patrick Spray held a press conference on Wednesday to give the community an update on Alaina's death.
“This young lady was such a beautiful human who loved her family, friends, her community, art, animals and band," Dr. Spray said.
According to Spray, Alaina was swimming laps with the other students during PE class when she went under the bulkhead, which divides the pool.
She was pulled from the water but did not survive.
A lifeguard and an instructor were on the pool deck at the time, according to Spray, who said no other details were being released at this time.
"As educators and staff we take on the responsibility for student well being," Spray said. "This is a tremendous responsibility taken very seriously."
The Johnson County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident.
The Johnnson County Coroner's office says the official cause of death could take up to three weeks to release as they await toxicology results.
Additional counselors and other resources are being made available to students through the remainder of the school year.
“There’s an intentionality to an investigation," Spray said. "We want to make sure we get all of the information and all of the facts so that we can get to the answers."
School will return on Thursday and resources will be available to students in need.
The school also offered a list of resources and tips.
Tips to help your child cope with grief:
- Be honest and give accurate information appropriate to your student’s ability to understand.
- Provide extra affection and reassurance. Death may bring up fears about their own safety or that of a loved one.
- Listen. When we show we are interested in their thoughts, youth have a lot to say about tragedies and grief.
- Encourage open expression of emotion through art, poetry, and conversation.
- Share your own feelings without overburdening your children. It is okay for children to know that you are experiencing and surviving your own grief.
- Continue daily routines for your children as much as possible.
- Be patient. Children may take longer than adults to resolve grief. Their processing of it may happen in stages. They may need to ask the same questions over and over.
Local Grief Counseling Groups
Brooke’s Place - Grief Support Resources
Common Sense Media - Talking to Your Kids about Difficult Topics
American Psychological Association - How to To Children About Difficult News
PBS.org - Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News
Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation has several mental health resources available to students. Parents should reach out to their child’s school counselor to learn more about how they can receive additional, specific support.