Central Middle School in Xenia, Ohio, was locked down at about noon yesterday after police and medics responded to a call that a sixth-grade student had been hanged. The school remained on lockdown until around 2 p.m., when the students were dismissed at their normal time. The 12-year-old girl’s death was confirmed by Xenia Community Schools’ superintendent Denny Morrison, but no details were provided, and it has not yet been confirmed that she died by hanging, although Morrison did confirm that she committed suicide.
The middle-school girl’s identity has not been released. It is known that she died at the Ohio school during school hours. School is in session again today, with grief counselors available for students and staff members. A crisis team met with staff members last night and the decision was made to resume regular school hours today, a decision that was somewhat controversial.
Morrison said that they intended to have as normal a day as possible, but are going to be “concentrating on helping young people.” School officials felt that a return to normalcy was the best approach. A statement released by Xenia Community Schools late Tuesday afternoon said that students are their number one priority and their treasure, and today they had lost one of their most prized possessions.
There was apparently no indication that the girl had any sort of problems. She was talking with her friends at lunch prior to her death, having a friendly and enthusiastic discussion. Morrison said that everyone at the school was shocked by the incident.
Xenia, Ohio, population 25,000, is approximately 50 miles northeast of Cincinnati and 21 miles from Dayton, and is Greene County’s seat. Its central location in the “transportation triangle” formed by highways I-70, I-71 and I-75, and its close proximity to Dayton Airport makes the city a transportation hub. The predominantly white population has a median age of 34.5 years. Median household income is $36,457, compared to a national median of $41,994. Median home value is $81,000.
The small Ohio town was virtually destroyed and 33 people died in a tornado in 1974. The storm was part of the infamous “Super Outbreak” of tornadoes that raged from Illinois to Georgia in April that year. In 16 hours, 148 storms killed a total of 330 people and injured more than 5,000.
Xenia Community Schools had just finished an exciting week in which they celebrated Homecoming, including winning their football game and having a student dance. On Monday, Morrison posted a weekly update recounting the festivities. Central Middle School was preparing for upcoming parent/teacher conferences. Enrollment at Central Middle School is approximately 600. On the Great! Schools website it has a 5-star rating.
Xenia police and the Greene County Coronor’s office are investigating the Ohio sixth-grader’s death, but out of respect for the family no further details are being released. It has, however, been confirmed that the death was not the result of violence and that no other students were in danger. Morrison said he does not believe bullying played a role.
By Beth A. Balen