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Classmates grieve for student killed crossing street

Social workers spent Monday comforting pupils at Sanderlin Elementary School.

Published February 15, 2005

Editorial: A tragic mistake
A chain of errors
Graphic: What went wrong
Brooke Ashlee Ingoldsby was run over after a school bus driver dropped her on the wrong side of a busy street.
[Times photo: Willie J. Allen Jr.]
Kamella Grunert, 16, looks at the memorial left for Brooke Ashlee Ingoldsby. The Grunerts live several blocks from where the 8-year-old was hit by a sport utility vehicle while crossing a street.

ST. PETERSBURG - The children who best knew Brooke Ashlee Ingoldsby remembered her Monday as everyone's friend. Someone you could trust. Someone who was always helpful.

"Her smile lit up the room," one child said. "She was thoughtful," said another.

More than one compared the little girl who was struck and killed by an SUV after a school bus driver dropped her at the wrong location Friday to an angel.

Their comments came during grief counseling sessions held throughout the day for children at James B. Sanderlin Elementary School, where Brooke was a third-grader. A cadre of school psychologists and social workers arrived at 7:30 a.m., a standard procedure when a child dies.

The social workers had to comfort school staff members as well.

"Our school psychologist was assigned to be my shadow," said Denise Miller, the Sanderlin principal. "She knew I would have my good moments and my not-so-good moments."

A half-dozen parents took the day off from work to help the counselors. One grandmother volunteered to be there for her granddaughter. Parents and counselors - and some students - tried to ignore television camera crews as they made their way to the school's entrance.

Miller had spent most of Sunday afternoon with staff members planning for Monday. They pored over school rosters and highlighted the names of Brooke's classmates. They pulled out art supplies so the children would be able to make cards for Brooke's family. They selected several outdoor spots where children could meet in groups with counselors.

"We took all the Kleenex out of the closet that we had," Miller said.

A Valentine's Day luncheon was served as planned. The cafeteria staff provided extra juice and crackers for the visitors.

Around midday, Miller spoke with Michelle Allen, Brooke's mother.

"This kind of mom reaffirms my faith in humankind," Miller said. "She cares so much about how the kids feel at school. All day she's been asking about us. I told her, "They're all asking about you.' It's because we all care about each other."

Miller sent the children home with a two-page letter for their parents. In the letter, she described the blue-eyed Brooke as a delightful child who always had a smile on her face. She included information about Wednesday's funeral service.

In the end, the children didn't ask many questions about the accident, Miller said. They were more interested in reminiscing about the 8-year-old who told jokes and was an excellent reader.

They talked about how sad they were. The counselors allowed them to talk about whatever was on their minds.

"When there is a tragedy like this, the first thing you need to do is consider the family and the people involved," Miller said. "Regardless of the circumstances, you can't lose sight of the fact that this was a little child. We don't need to rehash how it happened. We need to support the family and the people who loved the child."

[Last modified February 15, 2005, 06:29:06]

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