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A Hazleton third-grader passed away Sunday morning, March 29, from an unknown cause.

“The family has given us the blessing to share this news,” states a letter dated Sunday, and signed by Superintendent Josh Ehn, Principal Justin McGuinness and guidance counselor Barb Schmitz.

“Matthew Hampton, a third-grader, passed away in his home this morning,” says the letter. “The cause of death at this point is unknown. Matthew was a student at Wings Park and in Mrs. Schmith’s third-grade classroom.”

Although normally the school would notify students while in class and support them with its counseling resources in person, that is not possible because of the district closure owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Matthew was a joy to be around and will be sadly missed,” the administrators said. They ask each family to “help share this sad news to Matthew’s classmates, schoolmates and friends.”

“Reassure (your child) that all grief is normal and that questions or other feelings may come up. Our counselors are available if a student or a parent needs support throughout this, (at) 319-238-8896.”

“Student death happens from time to time in every district,” Ehn said in a phone call with the Daily Register. “Staff is trained to go through this, but it is certainly challenging in a pandemic. But we are trying to support students and parents by giving them resources.”

Students are welcomed to send sympathies and support to: Hampton Family, 1318 Lawrence Ave., Hazleton, IA 50641.


The school district shared resources from the National Association of School Psychologists on discussing grief, being highlighted here:

Sometimes students adapt and adjust to the loss with little support, expressing their feelings and incorporating the loss into their life in a healthy way; but there are also times when the student faces considerable challenges following a loss. For instance, the student may be very depressed and unable to focus. Thus, support from caring adults is important.

Although there are expected and natural reactions to a death, caregivers should consider the child’s developmental level when deciding whether to intervene.

Behaviors that may warrant follow-up at the elementary ages in the weeks after a loss include: difficulty concentrating or inattention, somatic complaints (such as headaches, stomach problems), sleep disturbances (such as nightmares, fear of the dark), repeated telling and acting out of the event, social withdrawal, increased irritability, disruptive or aggressive behavior and increased anxiety or regressive behaviors (such as clinging, whining) and depression, guilt, or anger.


Speaking with kids about bereavement can help. Adults may try to shelter youth from their own grief reactions, anticipating that this may cause them more pain. However, students will be aware of the behavior that is demonstrated, and when loved ones are openly sad, they will learn that mourning is natural and okay.

When discussing death and loss:

• Explain death in clear terms. Death may be difficult to understand for younger students. But speaking in broad or vague terms may lead them to incorrect assumptions. For example, a student who is told that the dead loved one “fell asleep” may assume that sleep is a risky behavior and fear sleeping.

In some instances, children will link a death with their own behaviors, blaming themselves and feeling very guilty, leading to complicated bereavement and depression. Providing explanations of the actual cause of death that are developmentally appropriate is helpful when children blame themselves. To prevent false reasoning, give children important facts about dying at an age-appropriate level to help them accurately understand what it means to be dead. For younger students, this might include helping them understand that the person’s body has stopped working, and that it will never again work.

• Students often benefit from participating in funerals or memorials (or writing to the family).

• Be prepared to discuss the death and feelings about it repeatedly. Younger students should be encouraged to talk about, draw, or even act out the details of the death, as well as their feelings about it, the deceased person, and other changes that have occurred in their lives. Bibliotherapy, or book therapy, is an evidence-based intervention in which parents and teachers read a book about death with their child or student and talk and ask questions about the child’s reactions. These conversations help children increase their understanding of the death, why it occurred, and how to cope with difficult feelings.

• Create structure and routine for children so they experience predictability and stability. Although it is not possible to immediately send students back to school owing to social distancing measures with COVID-19, consider accommodations that may be needed as a child adapts to a loss. For instance, modifying expectations and sensitivity to activities or homework that require sustained attention, concentration, energy, and cognitive demands are important in supporting bereaved youth.

• Take care of yourself. Caregivers need to be physically and emotionally healthy. Prolonged, intense grieving or unhealthy grief reactions, such as substance abuse, will prevent adults from providing support to grieving children. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is another evidence-based strategy that is effective for both grieving adults and children. For example, part of taking care of yourself may include practicing deep breathing (breathing meditation) or mindful check-ins (checking to see how you are feeling at the present moment). These strategies can also be taught to children to help them better deal with their emotions.

• Bereavement takes time. The most intense period is typically the first six months following the death. However, grief can recur for years. It is common for students to revisit various emotions and reactions on the anniversaries of a death and as significant life events occur, such as graduation.

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