The family of the 17-year-old Central Special School student who died after a choking incident in school last month has yet to learn what happened on that day from Anne Arundel County Public Schools or the county, the family wrote in a letter submitted to Superintendent George Arlotto on Tuesday.
“No one in the school system has explained to us how this happened or why it was allowed to happen,” wrote Bryan Levy, the father of Bowen Levy. “To be even more specific, no one from our county has even contacted us or communicated a single word in these 4 agonizing weeks about what happened to our son.”
About a week later, the family sent a statement to The Capital asking the school system for answers since the school promised the family Bowen would receive one-on-one, full-time supervision. In addition to autism, he was diagnosed with Pica, a disorder in which he has a compulsion to swallow things, and that was added to his school health plan called an Individualized Education Program, or IEP.
Now, the family is asking the county Board of Education to “commission an independent, outside investigation” into Bowen’s death.
In the letter, also sent to County Executive Steuart Pittman, members of the County Council and the school board, the Bowen family asked for more details about what happened that day, not just for their son but also for other families who have students with special needs.
School officials have said an investigation is underway, but not who is conducting it. The incident has been reported to the Department of Social Services.
Superintendent George Arlotto declined to comment on the investigation Tuesday afternoon but offered his condolences.
“What I can say, we are incredibly saddened by the loss of Bowen,” Arlotto said. “I know the school, the teachers and the aides who worked with him are devastated by his loss. We feel very similarly.”
According to the family, Bowen Levy was supposed to have a one-on-one aide throughout his time at Central Special. On Nov. 5, he was transported to Anne Arundel Medical Center and his family said he may have been without oxygen for 10 minutes.
“When we met with the school system in 2016 for the sole reason of addressing the amount of supervision and attention that Bowen needed versus what he was receiving, they made us a written promise guaranteeing him 1:1 full-time supervision to protect him. The system broke that promise to us,” Levy said in the letter.
The family is still seeking answers from the school system about why the school did not have the one-on-one aide as promised and how long this position or other special education staff roles have been vacant.
“What is the school system going to do to make sure this never happens to another special needs child?" the family asked.
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Bowen had attended Central Special since he was a preschooler. The school provides full-day programs for children with severe disabilities ages 6 to 21 and half-day services to children with and without disabilities from ages 3 to 5, according to the school website.
The school system denied a request from The Capital under the Maryland Public Information Act for correspondence between employees and the school system on Bowen’s death, citing an ongoing investigation and personnel information. In terms of formal complaints, the school has received two, schools spokesman Bob Mosier said.