Platte-Geddes School District: Focus on how kids lived, not how they died

Residents of Platte were dealing with mixed emotions Tuesday after learning that the death of a family of six was a murder-suicide.

Authorities believe Scott Westerhuis fatally shot his wife and four children with a shotgun last Thursday, set their rural South Dakota house on fire, then turned the weapon on himself.

The Platte-Geddes School District released a statement Tuesday. It says it is deeply saddened by the events over the past few days and offers condolences to the Westerhuis and Fish families. It also wants to focus on how wonderful the Westerhuis kids were.

"if I had to pick some kids that really would represent the Platte-Geddes School District, I think they'd be a really good representation of that. They were just all around great students and great kids -- very polite, very respectful, very good sense of humors. They were liked by everyone and respected," said Joel Bailey, Platte-Geddes superintendent.

Bailey says all of the Westerhuis children were extremely bright and excelled in the classroom. They were a great asset to the Platte-Geddes School District and will be missed.

The school is supporting its students and staff during this time. School counselors, administration, ministerial association members, and youth group leaders are available to provide support for our students and will remain in place for as long as needed.

"We just try to be there to support them and let them know that it's okay to laugh and to cry and we all grieve and deal with these situations in different ways and there's not really a right or wrong way to do it," said Bailey.