Wednesday, July 17, 2024

‘A parent’s worst nightmare’: Death of Trenton student at school prompts lawsuit against board

Landyn Ferris – Submitted photo

A lawsuit is being launched against the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) following the death of a 16-year-old student at Trenton High School earlier this month.

On May 14, Landyn Ferris, a child with Dravet Syndrome (a seizure disorder) and special needs, was left to nap unattended in a soundproof sensory room at school for some time, according to the family’s lawyer, Josh Nisker.

“The school was aware of Landyn’s condition and that he should not sleep at school due to the risk of seizures,” Nisker told Quinteist. “Despite this, Landyn was left to nap, unattended and alone. Landyn was found at the end of the school day, unresponsive and cold.”

Emergency personnel were unable to resuscitate the boy, and he was pronounced dead in hospital.

Landyn’s family will be commencing a civil lawsuit in connection with his tragic death, Nisker stated.

“Based on the limited available information to date, it will be alleged that the school board and its personnel were negligent in their failure to provide Landyn with adequate care, attention, and supervision given his needs,” the lawyer said.    

Landyn’s mother, Brenda Davis, took to social media to express her grief, and urge other parents to be vigilant about school protocols in place to support special needs children.

“My boy died at school. Alone. In a room where none could hear him Because they closed the sensory door to the room he was sleeping in,” Davis posted.

She said the room her son was in was separate from the main classroom, and closing the door made the room soundproof.

“They only checked him every 15 minutes when they were supposed to call 911 if he had a 5-minute seizure. Or call me if he even twitches,” her post reads. “How could they accomplish any of those things if he was in a soundproof room with the door closed for 15-minute intervals? They couldn’t. Never in a million years would I think they would close the door with him in a room like that and not have eyes and ears on my boy.”

She continued, “I don’t even know now how long my baby was actually gone before anyone even noticed. All I can do is take their word for it. But I’m going to find out the truth. Bet on that.

“If you do not have protocols, put some in place,” Davis urges. “Go over every detail. DO NOT assume they will comply or assume that common sense will be used.”

When asked to comment on the matter, the HPEDSB acknowledged that an emergency response occurred at Trenton High School for a student on May 14, 2024.

“Tragically, the student later passed away,” reads a statement the board sent to Quinteist. “The family is grieving, as are students, staff and the greater school community. Our hearts go out to everyone affected during this difficult time.”

The board says they have a tragic events protocol available to support the grieving community. Supports for students are in place at the school and will be available for as long as they are needed.

“As with any tragic event in our schools, a comprehensive review of procedures and processes is underway,” the board stated.

The statement concluded by indicating that due to confidentiality and privacy legislation, they are unable to release any further information.

The Ontario Autism Coalition issued a statement about Landyn’s death, calling it “a devastating loss that highlights a broader issue.”

The organization says it has raised concerns about the dangers faced by children with special needs for years due to “insufficient supports” in schools.

“The lack of appropriate staffing and resources in special education programs means that children with autism and other disabilities are often left without the necessary supervision and care they require. This tragic event underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive, needs-based approach to special education funding and staffing in Ontario.”

Nisker commented that instigating this sort of long-term change is one of the main goals of the lawsuit.

“Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare, and nothing can restore the loss suffered by Landyn and his family,” Nisker said.

The family’s hope is that legal and other action can “lead to meaningful change in our schools so that no other family of a child with special needs has to experience a tragedy like this.”

Quinteist will continue to follow this story, and provide updates as they are made available.

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