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Helena schools offering counseling after student dies in weekend crash

Posted at 9:13 AM, Jan 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-21 11:21:09-05

HELENA — A small memorial has been placed on the side of York Road in the Helena Valley, at the site of a Saturday crash that claimed the life of a 15-year-old girl.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff-Coroner Leo Dutton identified the girl as Shelby Descharme.

Montana Highway Patrol troopers say she was driving west on York Road Saturday morning when her vehicle went off the right side of the road and hit a driveway approach. The vehicle rolled over once.

Troopers say the teen was not wearing her seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. She was airlifted to Great Falls for treatment, but later died of her injuries.

Helena School District leaders say Descharme was about to start the second semester at Helena High School, "we were looking forward to welcoming her back,” said Superintendent Tyler Ream.

HHS Principal Steve Thennis said, while Monday was a school holiday, leaders have already been planning about how to respond to the loss.

“Part of that discussion is having that shift from feeling awful about this horrible loss and then shifting to, ‘What do we have to do to keep our kids safe that are going to be coming to school on Tuesday and help them through this?’” he said.

Thennis said administrators have already informed parents, and that a number of parents have already responded to let them know whether their children will need to meet with a counselor for support.

“You really can’t predict how it’s going to go,” he said. “Kids will respond different ways; there’s not one-size-fits-all for this.”

In addition to their own counselor, Thennis said HHS will bring in counselors from Helena Middle School – where Descharme previously attended – as well as other district schools.

“Having a familiar face – somebody from HMS – I think is probably going to be comforting to the kids,” said Thennis. “The other counselors coming in, knowing our protocols and things like that, they can assist where needed with our counselors to do their work.”

Ream said administrators will also be making sure students at other Helena schools receive support if they need it.

“There’s really nothing that ever prepares you for it, but we’ll gladly take our role in it and make sure that we can support our kids,” Thennis said.