School for troubled youths sued by family of student who died

January 04, 2002|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

The family of a 17-year-old student who died last year at a private school for troubled youths sued the facility yesterday, saying officials there failed to properly train a counselor who restrained the teen.

Carlton Eugene Thomas died May 14 after going into cardiac arrest at the Edgemeade-Raymond A. Rogers Jr. School in Upper Marlboro. A counselor had put Thomas in a restraining hold, which the state medical examiner concluded cut off the youth's oxygen and triggered an asthma attack.

The lawsuit, filed in Prince George's County Circuit Court, seeks "millions" of dollars in damages, the family's attorney said.

Edgemeade, as it is commonly called, is a nonprofit school that provides special education classes to 74 students in grades seven through 12. Thomas was placed there by Prince George's County school officials in September 1999 at the request of his mother, Sheila H. Bracey.

Bracey said her son had begun staying out late and was disobeying her, and she felt the school could help him. Later, however, she said she worried he was being abused there and was working to remove him at the time of his death.

"Right now, I'm numb and I'm hurt," she said yesterday. "I feel like I've been betrayed by the school."

The school's executive director, James Filipczak, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he had not seen it.

Bracey, who lives in District Heights, is being represented by James D. Montgomery, who works in the Chicago law firm of noted attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., and by Evelyn O. A. Darden of Glen Burnie.

Montgomery said he hopes the suit will lead to changes in the way Edgemeade trains its personnel and force the school to abandon the use of what he called "deadly restraint holds."

Ronald Washington, a counselor at the school, will go on trial this month on charges of involuntary manslaughter and child abuse. He is also named as a defendant in the suit.

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