Questions surround the Saturday death of a 7-year-old girl with special needs who was found face down on a therapeutic beanbag chair in a Fremont elementary classroom on Dec. 8.
Staff at Milliken Park Elementary found first-grader Kira Hales unresponsive that afternoon and said fewer than five minutes had passed since the girl had been checked on, according to Fremont police. At least one school staff member was in the room, they said.
Kira suffered from nonketotic hyperglycinemia, a rare genetic disorder that causes the amino acid glycine to build up in the body. She used a wheelchair and was unable to speak.
An autopsy was done Wednesday, but it likely will take about 30 days for the pathologist to issue a report, Dodge County Attorney Oliver Glass said.
Fremont police are investigating the incident and have not ruled out the possibility of criminal charges, Detective Brandon Lorenson said during an interview on Thursday.
“Ultimately, I’ll end up forwarding everything to the county attorney to decide whether somebody will be charged,” he said.
Kira used to have seizures that could cause her to roll forward, but she hadn't had one in years, Lorenson said.
The school called 911 just before 1 that afternoon, and an officer arrived minutes later and helped give CPR until paramedics arrived. Rescue workers were able to restore her pulse on the way to Fremont Health Medical Center, Lorenson said, but she died after being flown to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.
Her dad, Jerrad Hales, said on his Facebook page that his daughter’s brain had ceased to function. He said she was an organ donor and helped save four lives.
“That is four families that will not have to deal with this excruciating pain,” he wrote. “She’s a little hero indeed.”
Hales also said he believes his daughter's death could have been prevented.
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Seven students spend time in the basic skills classroom at the elementary school, said Fremont Public Schools Superintendent Mark Shepard. They also spend part of their day in other classrooms, and Shepard didn’t know how many were in the basic skills room at the time of the incident.
Staff assigned to the room include one teacher, two para-educators and a health aide who is there part-time, he said. No district employees have been disciplined or put on leave, Shepard said Thursday.
School officials are waiting to review the police report before deciding whether anything could or should have been done differently or whether changes need to be made to ensure student safety, Shepard said.
“We believe student safety is our paramount duty, and we strive to create a safe environment for all of our students,” he said.
The school district’s thoughts and prayers go out to Kira's family and all those affected by her death, said Shepard.
A school crisis team met Sunday, and grief counseling, including a therapy dog, was made available to staff and students Monday and Tuesday, Shepard said.
While Kira couldn't speak, she had her own personality and a warm smile, Heather Marie Silvey wrote on the Go Fund Me page.
“She liked hard rock music, horror movies, muscle cars and loved to go places," her obituary said, "but her favorite thing to do was spend time with her father."
Kira also is survived by her mother, Elizabeth Zastera, and other family. A funeral is set for 10:30 Friday morning at Moser Memorial Chapel in Fremont.