Death of First Grader Leaves Community Scared

February 7, 2006 -- Posted at 4:52 p.m. CST


KEISER, AR -- The South Mississippi County School District has confirmed the death of a first grader from Keiser Elementary School


The cause of the child's death is unknown, but the fear of what it could be is gripping this small town.


The fear of the unknown is what people are talking about in Keiser, Arkansas.


“I have a Granddaughter who's in kindergarten there and my main concern is her well being,” said Lynn Byrd.


There are many rumors floating around the town about how the little girl died.


“Just that there was a little girl sick at school who had meningitis, that it was highly contagious, and that all our kids were exposed to it,” said concerned parent, Jessica Boyett.


Superintendent Rogers Ford knows about the speculation and while he can confirm the death of a student, he doesn't know what caused the death.


“There's nothing we can do until we get confirmation that there's something to fear,” said Ford.


But because there may be something to fear many parents are not taking any chances.


“Until I know for sure that the child doesn't have something that's contagious and may have been contagious I wasn't going to send him back,” said Ford.


Superintendent Ford says 60 students were absent from school on Tuesday.


“As a superintendent, as soon as we find out what is going on we will notify the parents.  We always put the safety of our students first,” said Ford.


“I called up to the school and they said they haven't heard anything from the parents giving them a definite yes on the meningitis.  I also called the health department and they didn't know,” said Boyett.


These parents want something done to help calm their fears about the mysterious death.


“The school needs to hand out pamphlets to the parents and let them know if this is contagious and what they need to do.  A lot of people don’t know what the signs of spinal meningitis are so they are afraid,” said concerned parent Barbara Glasgow.


Test results should be back on the child in the next couple of days.  Once something is known for sure, parents in the community will be notified.