reposted at 12:44 pm on March 5, 2012 from an online story by Howard Portnoy
An 18-year-old Atlanta youth is dead because he refused to face forward in class. Actually, the problem wasn’t so much that Aaron Hatcher refused to look at his teacher but rather that he was unable. He suffered both muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy and was unable to control the direction of gaze, the Daily Mail reports.
Aaron was also unable to speak or walk, but that didn’t prevent his teacher at Roswell High School from insisting he follow a rigid code of conduct. She jerry-rigged a neck brace that would force him to “pay attention” in school. Unfortunately, the contraption had the unintended consequence of obstructing Aaron’s breathing and ultimately—his family is now arguing—contributed to his death last year.
Aaron’s family has filed a $10.5 million lawsuit against the school. Their attorney, Trey Sauls, told WSBTV.com:
[The teacher] fastened this neck brace not for any medical reason, but to force his neck in a position to look at her.
In turning his head in this position, it restricted his airway. In essence, it stopped him from breathing.
Ronald Hatcher, Aaron’s father, claims he notified school officials about the use of the unapproved neck brace but insists the teacher refused to relent. “I went to the doctor and got a letter to tell them to stop this,” he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “They would not listen to me. He would have to sit a certain way in order for him to breathe. Several times he would go to the hospital from school code blue.”
According to court documents, it was following one such emergency room visit on March 19 that Aaron died at home.
The lawsuit, which names 24 defendants including the school district, is not limited to the abuse that allegedly resulted in the teen’s death or to staff at Roswell High School. The suit also names defendants at Hopewell Middle School, where Aaron was a student from 2005 to 2007. One teacher in particular, Melanie Pickens, has been charged with assault and battery, false imprisonment, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. Court records allege that Pickens dumped Aaron out of his wheelchair and passed gas in his face