HILTON HEAD

VIDEO: Hilton Head Elementary memorializes slain third-grader

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 4, 2012 

Students walk past the Hilton Head Elementary School sign acknowledging their classmate Khalil Singleton, 8, who was shot and killed over the Labor Day weekend.

DELAYNA EARLEY, THE ISLAND PACKET

  • Community vigil planned for Singleton

    A community vigil and candlelight walk in memory of Khalil Singleton, an 8-year-old boy who was fatally shot Saturday, is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday at St. James Baptist Church.

    Attendees will participate in a march that will end with the release of white balloons.

    The event is open to the public. The church is at 209 Beach City Road on Hilton Head Island. Attendees are encouraged to make banners and posters in remembrance of Singleton and in support of violence prevention. Details: 843-301-6754

  • Tips on how to discuss death with your children

    Melissa Hady, a guidance counselor at Hilton Head Island Elementary School in 2012, gave the following advice on how to discuss Khalil Singleton's death with young children:

    • Set aside time to listen to your child.
    • Let children know they can express their feelings to you.
    • Take note of any change in your child's behavior, appetite or sleep pattern.

    Hady also recommended the resources available on hospicenet.org.

Eventually, a bench might bear his name, or a tree ringed with stones laid out in the shape of home plate, a nod to his love of baseball.

Or maybe one day, books bearing Khalil Singleton's name will be donated to the Hilton Head Island Elementary School media center, where he spent time satisfying his curiosity and interest in nonfiction books.

But on Tuesday, the memorials for Khalil were as modest as they were wrenching: His third-grade classmates made cards for his grieving family.

The 8-year-old boy was fatally wounded Saturday outside his grandmother's home on Allen Road, where he was living. He apparently was killed by stray gunfire involving four feuding men.

"The cards are very heartfelt and sweet," school principal Jill McAden said. "One child wrote, 'I will pray as long as I can.' "

The children drew memories of playing sports with Khalil. Several called him a good friend. Some classmates wrote they wanted his family to know they were thinking of him.

McAden said Tuesday began with two meetings: one of the school's crisis team -- which includes administration, social workers and counselors -- and one of the school's entire staff.

Second-grade teacher Latrice Campbell, who is also an ordained minister, spoke at the staff gathering. She said she encouraged teachers to support one another and highlight Khalil's accomplishments.

"These teachers knew this morning that they had to hit the ground running and be a pillar of strength for our students," McAden said. "The mood ... was very sad, quiet and shocked. But they knew that they had to move forward and put on a good front and be strong for our children."

A moment of silence was held at 8:45, about 15 minutes after classes began.

The school's two guidance counselors, Melissa Hady and Jessica Howard, visited classrooms throughout the day to talk with students. Additional Beaufort County School District guidance counselors were on hand, too, McAden said.

Hady said many students already knew of Khalil's death. Some cried, many asked questions and most showed concern for his family. The counselors encouraged students to remember happy moments with Khalil.

"We told them it was a good time to think of the good memories they have of him, and that they will always have those," Hady said.

The school chose not to discuss the way Khalil died -- that's a conversation for families if they see fit, Hady said. Letters were sent home Tuesday with suggestions for parents seeking to help their children cope with his death.

McAden said they kept a close eye on students who had been in classes with Khalil, played with him in his neighborhood or knew him through the Hilton Head Baseball Association, in which he played for about four years. That monitoring will continue in the coming days and weeks.

The school's goal, the principal said, is to find ways to honor Khalil's memory by focusing on positive things, but to also begin to move forward.

"There is so much happiness around that child to remember," she said.

A memorial is being planned and will involve Khalil's family, McAden said. So far the ideas have all come from students, and McAden said she's been surprised by their creativity and thoughtfulness.

"Sometimes children can shine through these circumstances, in some cases better than adults," McAden said. "We're doing the best we can here to hold our heads up."

Related content

  1. Students at Hilton Head Elementary return to school following shooting death of classmate; Sept. 3, 2012
  2. Four in custody following shooting death of Hilton Head 8-year-old; Sept. 3, 2012
  3. Eight-year-old boy shot to death in Hilton Head Island crossfire; Sept. 1, 2012
  4. Tips on talking to children about death from hospicenet.org

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