For kids, school is supposed to be a safe place where bad things don't happen. But sadly, tragedy did strike Monday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.
Students and faculty are still trying to cope with the tragic death of 11-year-old Jennifer Caballero. The middle schooler, who had Down syndrome, wandered away from gym class and was found dead in a school pond several hours later.
School principal Sharon Tumicki shared the heartbreaking news with 900 students Tuesday morning.
"I know you've heard it on the news. Unfortunately Jenny did not survive," Tumicki announced.
Some student expressed their feelings of grief on T-shirts and posters, while others wanted to talk about it, explained school psychologist Patrick Camavan.
"When we have a loss at a school, it really is so much more frightening for the student population and the teachers, too," said Camavan.
Investigators say around 12:30 Monday, a classmate saw Jenny leave the gym and told school staffers.
The school resource officer, teachers, school aides, and even some students fanned out looking for Jenny throughout campus and the school parking lot.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office was called at 1 o'clock, and was there within minutes.
But they had no luck. Six hours later, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office dive team found Jenny in a retention pond about 100 yards away from the school gym.
Linda Cobbe with the Hillsborough County School District says an investigation is underway.
"Clearly something that we need to find out -- what went wrong? We will be talking to the six aides. There were some students who saw what happened; they're going to be talking to law enforcement," said Cobbe.
There were 140 kids in the gym that day. Twenty of those were special needs students who were supervised by six aides and the gym teacher. How Jenny was able to slip away is still unclear.
School administrators say they will be reviewing their safety procedures from to top to bottom.
"We'll be talking to our safety office, our facility folks to find out if there is anything we can do prevent anything like this from happening again," added Cobbe.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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