WASHINGTON -- A Washington D.C. fifth grader was among the nearly 300 people killed in the bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
Sidwell Friends confirmed Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa has been on a leave of absence from the school, living and studying in Sri Lanka.
"This is obviously an unexpected tragedy for his family and for his greater community, including Sidwell Friends and the class of 2026," Sidwell officials wrote in a letter. "Kieran was passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and he was incredibly excited about returning to Sidwell Friends this coming school year."
Nine bombings of churches, luxury hotels and other locations on Sunday killed nearly 300 people and wounded hundreds more. The Associated Press reported it was the deadliest violence since a devastating civil war in the South Asian island nation ended a decade ago.
Officials in Sri Lanka confirmed the explosions were a terrorist attack by religious extremists.
The U.S. said "several" Americans were among the dead - at least four - while Britain, China, Japan and Portugal said they, too, lost citizens.
Government officials in Sri Lanka said Monday at least 290 people were killed and more than 500 wounded.
Sri Lanka is about 70 percent Buddhist. The Associated Press reported scattered incidents of anti-Christian harassment have occurred in recent years, but nothing on the scale of what happened Sunday.
Below is the full letter Sidwell Friends sent to families:
Dear Middle School Families,
I write to share some incredibly sad news with you. As some of you know, fifth grade student Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa has been on a leave of absence from Sidwell Friends School, living and studying in Sri Lanka. We learned today that Kieran died in the bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter. This is obviously an unexpected tragedy for his family and for his greater community, including Sidwell Friends and the class of 2026. Kieran was passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and he was incredibly excited about returning to Sidwell Friends this coming school year. We are beyond sorry not to get the opportunity to welcome Kieran to the Middle School.
We plan to speak to the fifth grade tomorrow, but we wanted to give you the opportunity to speak with your child(ren) at home. We would prefer that students hear from an adult, if possible, so we suggest that you speak with your children before school tomorrow. We will meet as a grade right after silence, and we also know that students may be communicating with each other in other ways before then. With that in mind, and out of respect for Kieran and his family, we ask that you discourage your children from engaging in conversation about his death using "group chat" mechanisms, be that by phone or social media, as it can sensationalize something very serious and personal. After we speak with the students, please know that we will have counselors available, as well as other teachers and faculty. We know that tomorrow will likely be a different day than usual, and we are prepared to support students with whatever they need. Please know that if your child seems to need a day home with you, we will understand that, as well.
This is very upsetting news, and it may be the first time that your children have experienced the loss of someone with whom they are close. Everyone processes grief differently. Please know that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve, and your children may react in various ways. If your children have questions as you speak to them, here are some suggestions:
- Be prepared that children may process this death differently than when someone older passes away
- Be honest and encourage questions about death
- Make space for your children’s emotional responses, knowing that they may shift or be complicated
- Trust your knowledge of your children: more than anything, they will want you to be present and to model calm in a moment of great emotion
- Be prepared for your children to re-visit the conversation or to come back to something for clarification later
Knowing that some children may try to process things on their own, using tools like the internet, let them know that you and adults are here for them: be aware of other places where they may be seeking information so that you can continue to support them
I know that we will all be holding Kieran and his family in the Light. When we receive word regarding any type of memorial service, we will share the information with you. In addition, if there are other ways that the family needs or wants support, we will communicate that. In meantime, thank you for your support of Kieran’s family as they process this tragedy, including your understanding if they are not able to respond immediately to communications you may send.
As always, please be in touch with any questions.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.