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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

School 'negligent' in boy's hanging, attorney says

EVANSTON Police say Feb. 3 death at school was suicide
Feb 18, 2009
Staff Reporter
Chicago Sun-Times

A police investigation has concluded the death of a 10-year-old boy at his Evanston elementary school two weeks ago was a suicide.

Meanwhile, the boy's fifth-grade teacher is on administrative leave as school officials probe how Aquan Lewis came to be unsupervised for a length of time -- which is a question the boy's mother was asking Tuesday.

Audio: A call to 911 about Aquan
Audio: Woman calls 911
Audio: Woman's continued 911 call

Their investigation found the boy had troubles in the past, had previously talked of hurting himself, and told students that day -- not a teacher as earlier reported -- that he was contemplating suicide, Evanston Police said.

"Interviews indicated he was 'unhappy' that day," said Evanston Police Cmdr. Tom Guenther at a news conference. He said information was supported by the evidence, including the boy's footprint on a toilet seat.

The fifth-grader was found hanged in a bathroom stall at Oakton Elementary on Feb. 3, sparking a probe of neglect allegations against the school by the state Department of Children and Family Services.

Mood swings cited

Aquan's troubles in previous school years had required extra school support, but he was having a "good" year, leaving staff at a loss behind the incident, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Supt. Hardy Murphy said.

Aquan apparently slipped away from his teacher sometime before 2:40 p.m. -- when the class queued for gym and he was discovered missing -- and 2:57 p.m. -- when students found him in a third-floor bathroom.

"At this time, we know that he left his classroom and was away from staff supervision for a period of time as short as five minutes and as long as 40 minutes," Hardy said.

The police 911 tapes released are chilling. But their investigation failed to answer the mother's questions, her attorney, Todd Smith, said.

"Aquan had some mood swings, " Smith said.

"But you have not told us what happened at school that day that could have triggered this. And you tell us 'as short as five minutes and as long as 40 minutes,' this child was unsupervised. I think it's at the least, negligent, and borders on the reckless."

Do you believe this kid jumped up to hook his shirt collar and hang himself? LE says his shoe print was on the toilet seat, showing where he boosted himself. More like he was trying to reach it with his shoe to get some leverage to get down.

Someone--probably many someone's--know who bullied Aquan. It doesn't sound like the school kept track of the students. They may be overcrowded, I don't know, but still have a hard time believing the official story. Poor kid.

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