School community shocked over 9-year-old's apparent suicide

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by STEVE STOLER / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on January 22, 2010 at 8:29 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 23 at 12:10 AM

Stewart's Creek Elementary School

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THE COLONY — A North Texas family, school and community are grieving over the death of a nine-year-old boy at his school in The Colony.

A nurse found Montana Lance unconscious in a bathroom at Stewart's Creek Elementary Thursday afternoon. According to the school, the boy locked himself in the bathroom and was found with a belt around his neck.

According to The Colony Police, Lance had been sent to the school's front office shortly before 1 p.m. While there, the boy asked the nurse to use her restroom. After noticing Lance had been in the restroom for quite some time, the nurse got a key, opened the door and found the young boy with the belt around his neck, police said.

She placed Montana on a bed and started CPR, according to the 911 call.

"He locked himself in the bathroom, and he has done this before." said Cheryl Smith, a school secretary, to a police dispatcher. "There's no heartbeat. Oh my God."

The boy he was taken by ambulance to a Carrollton hospital, which was where he was pronounced dead.

“I know at some point throughout the time frame that the child was in the restroom," said Lewisville ISD spokesperson Karen Permetti. "There was somebody to check on him."

Principal Lea Land sent out a letter to parents Friday explaining the tragedy. She asked them to support their children, encourage discussion and listen to them.

Lance's classmates placed teddy bears, notes and flowers outside the school.

“It’s just sad,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, a parent. “I can't imagine what would make a nine-year-old boy feel this way. I look at my son and just hope he never feels that way."

A team of counselors converged on the school to help students cope with the death.

“Some of them are writing how they feel, drawing pictures," said Denine Hammonds, a school counselor. "Kids are good with pictures. We’re allowing them to express themselves verbally and through writing."

Clinical psychologist Dr. Syed Quadri said parents can look for warning signs in their children including depression, stress and mood changes. The doctor said communication is the best prevention.

“Having good communication with your child on a daily basis, knowing what's going on in their day to day life so you get big clues to prevent anything like this happening," Quadri said.

Rodriguez said she talked with her third grader, who went to school with Lance.

“If you ever, ever, ever feel bad you need to talk with mommy or daddy," she said she told her child. "You have to come to us. Please don't ever feel like you can't talk to us."

The Tarrant County medical examiner, who also handles cases in Denton County, will not officially rule the death a suicide until a toxicology report comes back in four to five weeks.

A memorial fund for Lance has been set up at the Horizons Church in The Colony.

The Dallas Morning News contributed to this report.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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