WARNER ROBINS -- First-grade students were being led to recess Monday morning when the body of 19-year-old was found hanging in the playground of Lake Joy Primary school, authorities said.
Police said no foul play was suspected. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday and “more information will be available pending the results,” according to a statement from the department.
Houston County Coroner Danny Galpin said he was reluctant to call the death of the teen -- whose name has not been released -- a suicide before the autopsy.
Two classes of first-graders were coming out for recess when the body was discovered, said Beth McLaughlin, a school system spokeswoman. A teacher immediately turned the students around. Classes average about 20 students each.
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Two of the children said they saw “something on the playground,” McLaughlin said in an e-mail.
“All of the first-graders’ parents were contacted to let them know that their child’s classroom was the first to go (to) the playground and that they may have seen the individual’s body,” she stated. “We will have counselors and other staff members at school tomorrow to talk with any children who want to share their feelings.”
Police kept the body on school grounds while investigating, Galpin said. But children could not see the playground from the classroom, according to McLaughlin. School portables block that side of the building, and there are no children in the portables. Also, the only door with a view of the playground was covered with paper, she said.
School principal April Strevig sent an automated message by telephone Monday morning to parents of students at the school. The message stated that an adult had come on to the playground over the weekend and had “suffered a tragic death.”
After the discovery, the school was put under “code yellow” status. That meant that normal school activities continued, but with limited movement and no one permitted to go outside.
The message also said all students were safe, and their safety was never compromised.
“We have counselors and staff on site to help your child,” the message said. “Law enforcement was notified and is conducting an investigation. They will let us know when that investigation is complete.”
The school dismissed on schedule at 3:30 p.m.
Antonia Simmons, who has one child at Lake Joy Primary and another child at adjacent Lake Joy Elementary School, said she was at a Publix store when she heard the news from a store employee. She later found the school’s automated message on her home phone.
But she first went to the schools to check on her children and was permitted to talk with them. Her children were not aware of what had happened.
“I love the fact that they kept it normal,” said Simmons, who was pleased with the school system’s handling of the situation. “I don’t think they could have done anything better.”
Chelsea Mattison-Stevens complained, though, that she first heard about the incident from the news media. She later received the automated message from the school principal.
Her daughter was not among the students headed to recess when the body was discovered.
“I’m glad they’re worried about the child’s safety, but I wish it could have come sooner, and I wouldn’t have had to find out by Facebook and the news first,” she said.
Kris Foreman, whose daughter is enrolled in prekindergarten at the school, said the school system handled the situation well, but she wondered if the school board would consider a way to limit access to school grounds.
Simmons suggested that school officials hold a meeting for parents who might have any lingering concerns.
She also expressed concern for the teen’s family and for students who may have seen his body.
“I just hope and pray that no one saw anything,” she said.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.