Superintendent George Arlotto is waiting for the results of an outside investigation before deciding if any corrective action is needed following the death of a 17-year-old special education student who choked on a plastic glove at Central Special School.
The Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services is investigating the death of Bowen Levy. Anne Arundel County Public Schools reported a November choking incident and Levy’s death five days later as a possible incident of abuse or neglect of a child, Arlotto said during a wide-ranging conversation with editors and reporters of The Capital. Child Protective Services has 60 days to produce a report of its investigation, according to the agency’s fiscal year publication.
“We are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect, and so in a case like this where a child was harmed in a school, we report it to the Department of Social Services. It’s our protocol,” Arlotto said Monday.
During that time, the school “steps back” to let the agency investigate what happened. The investigation time frame has since elapsed.
In such investigations, findings inform a subsequent school system investigation, schools spokesman Bob Mosier said, stating it doesn’t make sense to duplicate efforts. The Department of Social Services investigation will establish – or rule out – things, such as neglect.
“We will utilize those findings in our investigation, which will encompass things such as adherence to school system policies, regulations, and protocols,” he wrote in an email. “Those are things that are not within the purview of the DSS investigation.”
The agency began an investigation immediately after the incident on Nov. 5. Bryan Levy, Bowen’s father, said Wednesday that a day after his son was taken to John’s Hopkins, a representative from Child Protective Services demanded to interview the family. Bowen died on Nov. 10.
Levy said that the process so far has frustrated, and at times, angered him.
“When it involves your child, there should be total and complete transparency ― period,” Levy said. “There is never a time, in my opinion, that hiding things from a child’s parents benefit anyone but the school system.”
Arlotto’s remarks were the first time the superintendent has publicly discussed Levy’s death, adding that until that report is finished his administration has had no information to share with the public or the family.
A spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Services, which includes Child Protective Services, declined to comment citing confidentiality laws.
Levy died five days after choking on a glove at the school in Edgewater. He was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis and then Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He may have been without oxygen for 10 minutes.
School officials did not publicly reveal there had been a school-related death until a week after Levy died when The Capital asked for comment. Since then, the Levy family has been seeking answers.
Bryan and Tanya Levy asked the county Board of Education to conduct an independent investigation into what happened. The family has said that under an individual education plan approved by county schools, Bowen was to have a one-on-one aide throughout his time at Central Special but did not in his final semester.
Bryan Levy said he emailed Arlotto with a list of questions in December, including the staff present on Nov. 5, the amount of time it took to get help and where Bowen found the glove. Levy said they should be “simple answers to simple questions.”
Levy said he was told that the school system had to wait until Child Protective Services finishes its process, and that discussing the incident could impede the investigation.
In talking with The Capital, Arlotto said that once his administration has the Social Services report, he will review it to see if “processes and protocols were followed or not followed,” he said. He said both he and the principal at Central Special School have been in touch with the family, but that they don’t have the answers the family is seeking yet.
“I’m not surprised that they’re critical, I can’t imagine the pain they’re going through,” he said.
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“I look at this from every angle I can think of, and the only conclusion is that the school system is worried about the school system and the school system only,” Levy said.
Arlotto said this was the first death of a student from an incident at a school since he started working in Anne Arundel County. He said his administration did not release a statement about the incident because it was respecting the privacy of the family.
“When we report to Child Protective Services, we report to the Department of Social Services. We then don’t put out a press release, hold a press conference or notify the public about whatever the incident was,” he said.
In his meeting with The Capital, Arlotto also talked about his proposed budget, the proposed increase in spending on education through the Blueprint for Maryland now before the General Assembly, the school system response to hate bias incidents and other topics.