As I have heard calls for armed guards at elementary schools, I have remembered the sad story of Trevor Varinecz, a teenager with Aspergers who was shot fatally after attacking a school resource officer. A judge has approved a settlement of $175,000 to be paid to Trevor's parents:
The money – half for a wrongful death claim and the other half for the parents’ pain and suffering claim – will come from the S.C. Insurance Reserve Fund, a state agency that provides insurance to governmental entities. Although police and school officials agreed to the settlement, they are not admitting any wrongdoing, according to court documents.
Officer Marcus Rhodes was dismissed from the lawsuit.
Lawyer Ed Bell, who represented the family, said that only some of the changes that need to happen have been made:
The parents, Tom and Karen Varinecz, alleged in their lawsuit that police and school officials were negligent because they did not provide Rhodes with the proper training to handle emotionally disturbed children such as their son. Rhodes also was not properly equipped because he had no stun gun or pepper spray that would have allowed him to avoid using deadly force, according to the lawsuit. The only equipment Rhodes had during the attack, Bell said, was a baton and a gun.
Bell said resource officers in Horry County now are equipped with stun guns and pepper spray as a result of the Varinecz case, but he believes they still are not receiving proper training.
“If the parents had a magic wand and could go back to the day before, they would have loved to have had a resource officer who was trained to handle the emotional outburst of their child,” Bell told The Sun News when the settlement was announced last month. “If that had been the case, he would have been O.K.”
Veronica Galbraith jumped off a bridge in Manchester. One of the things which is believed to have led to her death was being unable to care for her autistic son at home:
Miss Galbraith's mother Martha said in a statement: 'Andre had autism and was expelled from school. He smashed up the house and Veronica could not cope and put him in care.
'She was then having a lot of trouble from her next door neighbours who would play loud music. When she would go round to the house she would be threatened. She started saying she was hearing things and we knew she was not well. She started getting help.'
Jonah Smith, age 4, was autistic. He was found dead in a fishing pond near his home:
Authorities found the boy’s body at 2:25 p.m. in a large pond at Waterscape Aquafarm, a sport fishing club, adjacent to the boy’s home. Neighbors said the pond was a former “gravel pit.” Emergency crews had to cut a lock with bolt cutters to gain access to the pond.
Jarrett Bortscher, age 18, had Asperger's syndrome and catalonia. After he failed to return to his Edmonton home after going for a walk Sunday night, a search began. It ended Wednesday when he was found dead. He is fondly remembered:
“This kid was an amazing kid. He was a huge inspiration to me,” said Matthew Wood, a DJ who holds a weekly show on Churchill Square. He says Bortscher was a regular.
“He didn’t talk that much, but when he danced, it showed. His passion showed through his dance. His strength.”
Jessie Shillingford, age 15, also had Aspergers. He accidentally drowned after going down a pool slide at a school paty in Florida:
He struggled after he hit the water, as he tried to paddle toward the wall. Two minutes later, a surveillance camera later showed, he sank.
Nobody realized Jessie was underwater until five minutes later, when another child saw his body on the pool bottom, 12 feet below, according to Temple Terrace police and the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office.
In the case of Gareth Oates, the bullied autistic teen who died after throwing himself in front of a train, coroner Paul Marks found "gross failure" and stated his belief that Gareth might have lived, had he been provided with better services:
He said it was probable that treatment with certain drugs or the appropriate use of the powers under the Mental Health Act would have "averted his death."
The coroner said there was a clear gap in provision in psychiatric care for young people between 16 and 18 years old who were too old for child services but too young to benefit from adult interventions.
He said this was probably a national problem and he said he would be writing to the Secretary of State for Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists about his concerns.
In a narrative verdict this morning, Prof Marks said there were gross failures in the assessment and management of Gareth's case as well as the access he was given to specialist services "amounting to negligence."
Earlier, the coroner said: "There was a lamentable lack of a named expert in autism to take overall charge of his care and adopt an holistic approach to his needs."
Glenis Oates told an inquest that her autistic son Gareth died by throwing himself in front of a train in 2010 after being told he would be better off dead than in college education:
But Mrs Oates said she believed Gareth tried to take his own life because of a meeting with a GP link-worker the day before which left him “deeply, deeply distressed”.
She told the coroner she believed he had taken literally a comment made to him by the link-worker that “he’d be better off dead than in college education”.
She said taking language literally was a characteristic of his his autism.
Mrs Oates described how she became more and more concerned about her son’s suicidal tendencies over the summer of 2009 but could not convince mental health services of the seriousness of his situation.
She said: “There could be no doubt this young man, my son, was suicidal.”
Gareth was eighteen when he died. Bullies at his school had given him the nickname "Suicide Boy."
The film Bully will be released with a PG-13 rating. So I am in the awkward position of telling a goal I asked you to help fight for, of reaching the largest number possible of kids with the film, has been reached. And then saying that I'm not sure they should see it.
Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, makes this statement regarding the choice of the film's producers not to mention that Tyler Long, whose suicide is a major part of the film, had Asperger's syndrome:
We're deeply concerned and disappointed that the makers of Bully chose not to include mention of Tyler Long's autism diagnosis in their film. By excluding mention of his disability, the movie missed an opportunity to talk about the broader issues of prejudice facing Autistic people in school and society.
When I thought the cut of the film still might be in flux, it seemed possible, if extremely unlikely, that it might be mention to actually get this to be changed. With the ratings issue taken care of, that no longer seems possible.
We have been erased.