Willmar school officials, regional crisis team offer support to students, staff after student's death

A regional crisis team, in addition to local counselors and social workers, is helping students and staff cope with the death of a 17-year-old Willmar Senior High School student. The crisis team will be in Willmar through the week.

A 17-year-old Willmar Senior High School student died at his home last weekend. The school district has called in a regional crisis team to help students and staff in the aftermath.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — Willmar school officials and a regional crisis team are working this week to help Willmar Senior High School students cope with the death of a classmate.

A junior at the school, Nicholas Flannigan , 17, of Svea, died at his home last weekend.

In his obituary, his family remembered him as having "always smiling" with "a huge heart and full of compassion." His funeral will be Friday afternoon in Willmar.

Nick Clasemann.jpg
Willmar Senior High School Assistant Principal Nick Clasemann

When tragedy strikes, the school's administrators, counselors and social workers establish an immediate response to help teens and adults at the school, Assistant Principal Nick Clasemann said in an email Wednesday morning.

The school has a strong local team of counselors and social workers, Clasemann said, and they are available for students every day.


“The counseling team is currently providing space for students to share condolences and memories,” Clasemann wrote.

Students are finding ways to grieve on their own, too. The Willmar Police Department responded to a call of teenagers on the bridge at 15th Street Southwest and the Highway 23 Bypass Monday afternoon. The young people told an officer they were mourning their friend.

Videos posted on Facebook Monday morning show multiple vehicles and young people, apparently on the same bridge, listening to music and doing burn-outs with their vehicles, also to honor Flannigan.

In one video, a person lights fireworks.

The School Crisis Response Team trains local school personnel to provide grief or mental health support for students, Clasemann said.

In the case of tragedies like a student or staff death, a serious accident or a disaster, the crisis team itself responds for additional support.

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The region’s School Crisis Response Team is a service provided by the Southwest West Central Cooperative. The crisis response effort is one of many services provided to area school districts by the cooperative.

The team was formed in 2011, and is comprised of counselors, psychologists, social workers, teachers, nurses and others from 18 school districts in southwest and west central Minnesota, according to the team’s brochure.


The team members who respond to a crisis are not from the affected district, so they can assist students and staff members who are affected by the situation. The team members can help people begin a healthy grieving process and identify people who may need follow-up counseling.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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