Jenny Caballero School Drowning: Detectives continue investigation

12:55 PM, Oct 23, 2012   |    comments
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  • Students at Rodgers Middle School have written cards to honor Jenny and express their sadness around her death. -Hillsborough County Public Schools



Riverview, Florida - Hillsborough County Sheriff's detectives returned to Rodgers Middle School in Riverview today question students and staff in their effort to determine how a young girl managed to wander away from the school gym unnoticed.

10-year-old Jenny Caballero, who has Down Syndrome according to family, was in the gym with more than 100 other students on Monday afternoon when she slipped away from the sight of the six teacher's aides watching over the students.

School staff, students, deputies, and the girl's family spent five hours searching for her before her body was discovered in a 12-feet-deep pond near the school gym.

PHOTO GALLERY: View pictures of the scene here

Family members tell 10 News Jenny had a fascination with water, but was afraid of strangers and would hide from them.

The tragedy has shaken students and staff at the school.

"We are here to provide you with the support you need," said the school principal during morning announcements.

A crisis team of grief counselors are working with students and staff at the school. As of this afternoon, 60 students met with counselors.

"Schools are a safe place, that's the way kids see them. Bad things don't typically happen at school," explained school psychologist Patrick Canavan.

Canavan pointed out that the crisis team is not only trying to help students deal with their grief, but in this case fear, assuring them that they are safe at school. But, the reality is, what happened to Jenny has shaken even those students who did not know her.

"When we have a loss at school, it really is so much more frightening for the student population," said Canavan.

As part of the counseling, students and staff are writing letters to Jenny's family.

Canavan says it's a way of helping students deal with grief, while giving them a sense of control over something.

For many of them, this is the first time someone they have known has died. At such a young age, they haven't yet come to an understanding that death is something we all face. 

As grief counselors worked with students, sheriff's detectives continued their work to piece together a timeline to figure out what exactly happened.

The school district says Jenny was among about 100 students in the gymnasium. She was part of a class of 20 developmentally disabled students. There were three other mainstream classrooms in the gym as well.

It is too early in the investigation to say how Jenny managed to walk out of the building unnoticed by the six teacher's aides in charge of watching over the kids.

The district says students are always supposed to be under supervision.

"We are going to let law enforcement complete their investigation and then we will go from there, but clearly, there is something 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 are going to be talking to law enforcement," said Linda Cobbe, a Hillsborough County Schools spokeswoman.

Cobbe says the district is also working with its Safety Office and Facilities Department to make sure something like this never happens again. 

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