Summit Hill School District 161 is offering its students extra support from district social workers and counselors after the father of three district students was charged with the first-degree murder of their mother.
Nermeen Gamel Sam, 38, was found dead on Wednesday outside her home in the 19700 block of Silverside Drive, according to Tinley Park Police. Will County prosecutors say Bahaa A. Sam, 47, beat his wife to death with a weight lifting curling bar as their 4-year-old son watched.
Bahaa and Nermeen are the parents of four children, three of whom attend school in the district at Summit Hill Junior High School, Hilda Walker Intermediate School and Dr. Julian Rogus Elementary School.
District social workers and counselors were removed from their usual schools and redistributed to Summit Hill Junior High and Hilda Walker Intermediate to offer support to the Sam children’s classmates. Additional counseling staff from Lincoln-Way North High School were also present at SHJH and Hilda Walker.
“We offer the services to wrap our arms around our students and help them try to process what’s going on,” said District Superintendent Barb Rains.
The increased availability of counselors for Summit Hill and Hilda Walker students will continue until the district holiday break.
The parents of students at Summit Hill and Hilda Walker were notified on Thursday morning about the death and subsequent district counseling availability in an email. A letter concerning the incident was also sent home with students on Thursday afternoon.
“When your child comes home they may need to talk to you about this,” said Summit Hill Principal Pam Hodgson, in an email to parents. “Listening to them is an important part of helping them process these events.”
The death of Nermeen Sam is not being discussed with students at Julian Rogus Elementary, although counseling is available for students who are experiencing difficulty processing the conflict. Rains said that the decision not to address the death with elementary students stems from a desire to handle the situation in an age-appropriate manner.
The Sam children are currently in the custody of relatives and are not attending school.
District 161 is working with the family’s church, St. George Coptic Orthodox in Monee, to organize a fund for the benefit of the children. The district also hopes to establish a donation center at a local Old Plank Trail Community Bank location.
“This is a gesture of support on behalf of the district,” said Rains.
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