The suicide of a 15 year-old resident at a Texas school for the mentally disabled is the latest incident to add to the growing concern over how the Texas state schools are run. The incident, which is now under investigation, comes on the heels of a report last week on ABC News in which cell phone video showed a 'fight club' allegedly run by employees of another Texas school who forced mentally disabled residents to brawl.
The female resident was found hanging in her room last week by staff at the San Angelo State school in Carlsbad, TX. According to State officials, staff members and on-site medical personnel attempted to resuscitate the resident. A report obtained from the Tom Green County Sheriff's office indicates local paramedics arrived and were able to get a heart rhythm after performing CPR. The patient was transported to Shannon Medical Center where she was pronounced dead and the manner of death later confirmed by the autopsy report as "suicide".
"We are investigating the matter and will interview employees who were on duty at the time to find out what they observed and witnessed," said Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. "We will also determine if there was any neglect on behalf of the staff," he added.
Crimmins said the agency will also look at the girl's records to determine why she was at the school, her medical condition and if she was supposed to have additional supervision.
The young woman's suicide is the only reported death of a resident at the school.
"Our agency and the staff at San Angelo school are deeply saddened by the sudden death of one our residents," said Cecilia Fedorov, press officer for the Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities.
The Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities Services (DADS) is charged with overseeing Texas' 14, state schools; including the discovered by police where night shift employees are accused of forcing the mentally disabled to take part in a brutal "fight club" sessions that were videotaped on their cell phones.
The six former employees were indicted earlier this month; five were charged with causing injury to a disabled person and the sixth was charged with failing to intervene.
Texas State Schools have received numerous complaints over the years. The concerns have heightened with the recent investigation into the "fight clubs" and now the death at the San Angelo State School.
The San Angelo State School is a state-funded residential facility that cares for nearly 300 mentally ill or mentally challenged individuals. According to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) the school has had 203 confirmed cases of neglect or physical abuse between 2006 and 2009. In fiscal year 2008 alone, San Angelo State School had 844 completed investigations. Within the past month, there have been 69 completed investigations.
The staggering number of confirmed abuse and neglect cases at the San Angelo school and throughout the Texas State School system has raised concerns about the effectiveness and safety of the institutions.
"The system is broken," said Beth Mitchell, Senior Managing Attorney of Advocacy Inc., an organization that works to protect the rights of Texans with disabilities. "It's very sad that you have a state that is repeatedly told there are problems with the system, yet they don't take actions to fix it."