Mt. Vernon Student Dies Following Medical Emergency

By Steve Gravelle, Reporter

Emergency personnel assist a patient outside of Mount Vernon High School, Monday, Nov. 15, 2010. (Jeff Raasch/KCRG-TV9)

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By Aaron Hepker

MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - The Mount Vernon High School student involved in a medical emergency at the school Monday has died, school officials confirmed.

Monday’s student medical emergency at Mount Vernon High School was discovered by a staff member who alerted Superintendent Pam Ewell and the high school principal, Ewell said Wednesday.

“It’s extremely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking to lose one of our students,” Ewell said. “Students are grieving, and they’re talking.”

Students were informed of the news Thursday morning, and a notification was sent to families. A team of counselors and clergy will be available this week and next week for seventh through 12th grades, Ewell said.

The school underwent a lockdown while medical responders attended to the male student. Emergency personnel on scene included the Mount Vernon and Lisbon police, the Lisbon-Mount Vernon Ambulance Service, the Mount Vernon Fire Department and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

‘When there is an emergency of this kind, our priority is the safety of the students,’ Ewell said.

The incident happened at lunchtime, and Ewell said students and staff were asked to return to their classrooms. After everyone was accounted for, she said, the district’s automated notification system was activated to inform parents of the situation, roughly 50 minutes after the lockdown began.

Recordings released Wednesday by the Linn County Sheriff’s Office shed no new light on the incident. In the initial call, a school office staff member reports a medical issue in the restroom, then adds, ‘We need to go into lockdown.’ In a second call, a different unidentified woman tells the dispatcher, ‘It’s a suicide, please come quickly.’ In response to the dispatcher’s questions, the caller, who’s also apparently talking to school employees, says, ‘It’s a suicide in the men’s bathroom, we need to go into lockdown … we need to call (Mount Vernon Police Chief) Mark Winder.’ The Gazette has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Mount Vernon police seeking the immediate facts and circumstances of the incident, as specified by the state’s open records law.

Neither the district nor law enforcement officials have released the name of the student involved, citing student and patient confidentiality. Winder would not comment on rumors circulating in the community and on social networking sites.

The student was treated on scene and airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.

‘All I know is the student is in the hospital and in critical care,’ Ewell said Wednesday morning.

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