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16-Year-Old Dead Over Throwing a Sandwich

Marion Charatan

Posted on July 2, 2020 13:01

2 users

The story of a teen Cornelius Fredericks dying at the hands of 3 staffers at a juvenile facility is heartbreaking. This blatant abuse of power throws the spotlight on the need for immediate reform in residential teen treatment centers.

The killing last April 29 of a 16-year-old teen is particularly poignant. Every death of a young person is sad but this story really got to me. It's heartbreaking to see the broad smile of a kid who won't live to graduate high school. 

Cornelius Fredericks, in his short life, had experienced troubles. He was placed in the Lakeside Academy, a residential treatment facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan for young people, 12 to 18, with behavioral issues.

A 15-year-old friend Nathanial Dixon, another resident, witnessed Fredericks being grabbed by 6 to 7 adult staff members; for throwing food in the cafeteria. 

There is a haunting similarity to the George Floyd case because the teen also screamed out, "I can't breathe," as he was being restrained. Two staff members laid across the teenager's torso causing his death, prosecutors claimed. Three employees, Heather McLogan, 48, Michael Mosley, 47, and Zachary Solis, 28, are charged with involuntary manslaughter and child abuse.

They should be charged with murder in the first degree, which has the legal definition of "killing through action showing a depraved indifference to human life." Were these staffers not trained in the art of de-escalation? What happened to compassion, listening and common sense? Why was excessive force applied? 

Cornelius Fredericks should be alive — period. How many kids throw tantrums?

Some years ago, I was a substitute high school teacher between radio gigs. A 16-year-old always acted out in my English class; he talked all the time and was very disruptive. After class, I took him aside and suggested he get involved in acting or comedy — and that's exactly what he did. His behavior improved overnight when he started to do stand-up comedy. 

At times, unruly behavior is a sign or boredom or simply pent-up frustration. Dealing with misbehaving teens can be trying. But throwing sandwiches should never be a justification for physical restraint that ultimately causes cardiac arrest.

Frequent mental health checks must be mandatory for anyone working with kids in juvenile residential treatment centers. This might help to weed out adults who cannot appropriately handle the stress of being around troubled teens.

The Michigan Department of Heath and Human Services has ended all contracts with Lakeside and is taking legal action to revoke its license. MDHHS reported in a press release the Lakeside had "10 licensing violations, including a failure to follow rules related to resident restraint and discipline." The agency determined the restraint used on Fredericks was "significantly disproportionate" to his offense of throwing sandwiches.

Video footage from the State revealed 12 minutes elapsed before nurses or other staff started CPR and called 911. 

The number of black children and children of color is disproportionately high in the foster system. But Fredericks's case is not being handled as a hate crime. The teen was black. One of the accused is white, one black and one is of Hispanic origin. 

The Fredericks' family has filed a lawsuit for $100 million.

Marion Charatan

Posted on July 2, 2020 13:01

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Source: WTAE

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