The days following a Collinsville High School student’s fall in a stairwell that left him with serious injuries were filled with crisis management by school officials and an outpouring of support by student groups and area schools.
The Collinsville Community School District 10 this week released more than 100 pages of documents in connection with the school’s handling of Tray Turner’s fall and subsequent death. But the documents do little to shed light on what happened. The documents were released to the News-Democrat through a Freedom of Information Act request made last week.
Tray, 14, was injured in a fall on stairs at the high school during lunch time on Sept. 19. He died Sept. 22 at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.
While part of the News-Democrat’s FOIA request was granted, part of it was denied for various reasons, Susan Frechman, the school district’s open-records officer, wrote in an email. The News-Democrat had sought “any and all reports or correspondence” by district officials in connection with Tray’s injury.
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Frechman wrote that some records were exempt from release because they contain “preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated.” In addition, Frechman said some documents dealt with communications between the school district and its attorneys, which made those items exempt. Still other documents were exempt because they were given to law enforcement and disclosing them would interfere with an ongoing investigation, according to Frechman.
Nowhere in the released documents does it explain how Tray was injured. Last week, the Collinsville Police Department denied a News-Democrat FOIA request seeking documents connected to its review of Tray’s injury. Collinsville police said its review was still active. On Tuesday afternoon, Collinsville Police Chief Steve Evans said he hoped his department’s review would be finished by the end of the week. Police have termed what happened to Tray as a “tragic accident.”
In the only communication included in the documents that was made on the day of Tray’s fall, Kristin Trapp, a social worker at Collinsville High School, emailed the school’s staff at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 19.
“We are aware that many staff and students are concerned about the accident that took place on Monday,” Trapp wrote. “If there is information to release we will do so as soon as we are able. If you have a number of students who are talking about the situation or you hear people talking about it, please share the following statement with them.”
The statement read: “We are aware that the accident yesterday may be affecting people in different ways. Please trust that if there is any factual information that we can share, we will. The best thing we can do right now is respect each other. The best way to do this is to not share information that you are not certain is factual. If you have questions or concerns, please let your teacher know and we will do our best to help. If you need to talk to someone about your reactions, please let your teacher know and arrangements will be made.”
At 8:06 a.m. Sept. 21, two days after Tray’s fall, Collinsville High School Principal David Snider shared with staff members in an email that the school had been given permission to share Tray’s identity to the school community “in hopes of prayers, positive energy and support.” Tray’s name was not released to the general public until the following day when the school announced he had died.
Snider sent an email to staff members at 12:01 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, to inform them of Tray’s death.
“This is a very difficult time for our Kahok family,” Snider wrote. “We will work through this together and support each other in any way we can. ... Do what feels comfortable for your class today. Some students (and staff) might not be able to focus on classwork or normal lectures today. Do what feels right for your classes.”
The school district’s Help and Response Team made scripted presentations on Sept. 23 to each morning class in which Tray was a student.
Tray’s death happened during homecoming week at the school. The school canceled its homecoming parade on Sept. 22, and canceled a Sept. 23 pep rally that was going to be broadcast by a St. Louis television station.
The school district released little information while the student was being treated. A Facebook page called Kahoksports.com had posted some updates about Tray’s medical progress during the week, but those posts were removed at the school’s request.
“Kahoksports.com is part of Unit 10,” Kimberly Collins, the school district’s public relations laison, wrote in response to a media question about the posts having been deleted. “We contract with them for live-streaming services of our sporting events. A member of that group is close to the family and posted personal information. We have nothing to do with that page. We asked that those types of posts not be on a “KAHOK” names site — but instead be shared by family etc. on a different page.”
School district officials received emails of support from several school districts, including Edwardsville, Freeburg and Piasa. More than half of the documents released by the school district dealt with numerous media requests.
What we know:
Tray Turner, a freshman, was injured in a fall in a stairway at Collinsville High School on Sept. 19. He died on Sept. 22.
Police have termed it a “tragic accident.”
What we don’t know:
How the fall happened.
What police learned from their review.