By David Martin

Response to death questioned


The grieving father of a Green River High School student that had died a few days prior to graduation questions the response by school officials following his son’s death.

Steve McKeehan and two friends approached the Sweetwater County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees Tuesday evening asking board members and administrators why his son’s name was excluded from being called during the GRHS graduation ceremony May 20.

Steve’s son Brett died 3/4 of a mile east of Riverview Cemetery May 15. Steve said he had arranged for Brett’s best friend Jordan Andersen to pick up Brett’s diploma when his name was announced, but discovered Brett’s name wasn’t called while he and other family members watched a live stream of the ceremony.

While speaking to the board, Steve was unable to continue due to emotions and his friend, Amy Killett, approached the board seeking permission for a way to honor Brett, such as installing a bench near the GRHS tennis courts or a scholarship bearing his name.

“The family has been really hurt by how the graduation was handled,” Killett said.

Mikaela Inman, another friend of the McKeehan family, said she would be willing to raise funds for a bench to be installed.

GRHS Principal Darren Howard said the school handled the situation like it had done in the past, saying a lot of thought went into responding to Brett’s death. The GRHS crisis management team was activated following Brett’s death. The team includes school resource officers, administrators and counselors trained in handling school crises. Howard said the group followed a plan detailing a response to a student dying before graduation. Howard said Brett’s cap and gown were draped over the chair he would have sat in, along with his honors medallion. Brett would have graduated cum laude, having a GPA between 3.5 and 3.749. Howard said the gown over the empty chair is how the school has recognized deceased students in the past.

“A lot of thought went into (the response),” Howard said. “We are grieving with the family, we loved Brett.”

Howard said Brett’s graduation attire and other items signifying his accomplishments were encased in a shadowbox, which will be presented to Steve at a future date.

However, Steve and Killett disagree with Howard’s statements, saying they were not aware of a protocol in how the school responded to student deaths. While he appreciates the shadowbox with Brett’s possessions and honors, Steve said he would like to see the school district do something to honor Brett’s memory.

Board Chairwoman Brenda Roosa said the school made the best decisions it could given the time it had, saying the board would revisit how the district responds to a student’s death.

“It was not by suicide”

When Steve talks about his son, he describes a young man excited about his future.

One of the rumors surrounding Brett’s death was that he died by suicide after dealing with mental health problems. Steve denies these rumors, saying Brett had died after falling from a cliff he attempted to climb down as he was making his way back to Green River. Steve said Brett’s truck was found with a flat tire the morning his body was located and was missing the tools needed to repair the flat.

Steve said his son told him everything, but the fact that he enjoyed free climbing local rock formations. Steve believes his son determined the quickest way back to Green River was by descending a cliff outside the city, but during that attempt lost his grip and fell.

“It was not by suicide,” Steve said.

Steve also doesn’t believe his son was feeling depression leading up to his death. He said Brett had just test driven a Jeep Steve said he would buy Brett for his graduation gift, remembering how excited Brett was during a call he made while visiting a dealership. He also said Brett was excited for the graduation party that would be hosted at the McKeehan household. Steve said the two spent several hours preparing for the party that week. He said Brett had also committed to a degree program and had already completed some specialized courses.

Brett completed the CNA courses at Western Wyoming Community College while attending GRHS and spent time working at Mission at Castle Rock Rehabilitation Center. Brett told his father he planned to study psychology in college.

“Brett knew his job in life was to help people. He told me that,” Steve said.


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