'Rough day' at NHS after girl, 15, dies

Cary Ashby • Nov 9, 2016 at 10:15 PM

The sudden passing Wednesday morning of Margaret N. Swanbeck was felt throughout Norwalk High School.

“It was a rough day. We had students and staff affected by it,” Principal Brad Cooley said.

Swanbeck, 15, is the daughter of Carl and Angela Swanbeck. The NHS sophomore had been away from school since early October until her death Wednesday.

“We got information from the sibling (about her passing) and then it was confirmed through Amy Little,” Cooley said, referring to a local pastor.

Margaret Swanbeck died at Akron Children’s Hospital, where she had been for several weeks. Cooley said the girl had a rash related to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, which causes internal and external burns to one’s body.

“It’s a rare reaction to medication. … That’s why she had to be hospitalized,” the principal added. “She had ups and downs.”

Last week, school officials heard Swanbeck had been released from the intensive care unit. Cooley said that news had many people thinking she was doing better.

“That was the unfortunate shock we had,” he said, referring to hearing about Swanbeck’s death.

At 9 a.m., “we walked a message around to each classroom,” Cooley said.

The prepared statement notified students and teachers that members of the Huron County School Crisis Team were available for counseling in the library throughout the day. Area school counselors, local ministers and counselors from area agencies make up the team. Cooley said teachers — not just students — were affected by the news of Swanbeck’s death and the school had to find substitutes for teachers who weren’t able to finish their work day.

Ten minutes after NHS was dismissed for the day, Cooley put out a One Call message to parents. He said he wanted mothers and fathers to know their children might be impacted emotionally about the news, whether they knew the deceased student or not.

Swanbeck was heavily involved in the fine arts program at NHS.

“She loved the fine arts,” Cooley said. “She had taken the bulk of our art classes. The bulk of her friends were choir and band students. … Any art class she could take, she was in it.”

Swanbeck was known for her distinctive look of wearing “flower crowns.” Cooley said students recalled she not only wore them regularly, but often made what she wore.

“She loved to wear the flower crowns,” the principal added.

Swanbeck was an honor student and in the choir.

“She was mature beyond her years. She was very accepting of others,” Cooley said, reciting feedback he heard from students’ memories of Swanbeck.

The principal said students remembered they appreciated having Swanbeck in class, especially when it came to answering a tough question that left her classmates stumped.

“She would be the one to answer the question,” Cooley said. 

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