Mass Escape at Michigan Youth Facility After Staff Restrain Teen to Death

Mass Escape at Michigan Youth Facility After Staff Restrain Teen to Death

Lakeside Academy, Kalamazoo, Michigan
May 1, 2020

On April 29, 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick was “restrained” by staff at Lakeside Academy after he reportedly threw a sandwich in the cafeteria. As staff were restraining him, Frederick reportedly tried to tell staff that he could not breathe. Staff continued to restrain Frederick in a manner that cut off his oxygen until he became unresponsive. He was transported to Bronson Methodist Hospital where he was pronounced dead May 1, 2020.

According to the attorney for the family, Jon Marko, Frederick died of cardiac asphyxiation after staff members improperly restrained him for an extended period of time, cutting off his air flow. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Family Services Director JooYeun Chang said staff sat on Frederick’s chest for 9 minutes.

Cornelius Frederick, age 16, who was killed by staff at Lakeside Academy. He died May 1, 2020 at a hospital.

According to a report released June 18 by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), investigators who reviewed video evidence of the incident determined that “multiple staff participated in this restraint and several were observed on the video with their weight on Resident A’s chest, abdomen and legs, making this an unsafe and excessive restraint.” Frederick is referred to as “Resident A” throughout the report in accordance with MDHHS policy regarding minors.

Lakeside Academy is a privately-operated youth facility owned by Sequel Youth Services, which is based in Alabama. At the time of the incident, the facility housed 125 boys, approximately half of whom are from Michigan. The remainder of the boys are from other states. The facility has a history of complaints involving violence toward youth by staff.

Shawn Spivey, whose son was living at Lakeside Academy at the time of Frederick’s death, spoke to his son a few days later. Spivey spoke with Fox 17 about the conversation. “He said ‘well this kid threw a sandwich. He was being unruly and they couldn’t control him. So four guys tackled him,” Spivey said. “And I was like ‘what do you mean four guys?’ he said like ‘four guys the size of rugby players tackled him.’”

Due to the fact that the majority of the witnesses to Frederick’s death are minors, many of the accounts of the incident are from adults who relayed information they learned from the minors.

Following the announcement of Frederick’s death, 25-28 students escaped from the facility on May 1. Two bikes and one canoe were stolen from the facility, according to Lakeside Academy board chairperson Jeff Palmer who spoke with Michigan Live.

Lisa Ackley, who spoke with News Channel 3, said her 15-year-old grandson ran away from campus after seeing the 16-year-old killed.

Ackley’s grandson ran to the backyard of Khady Brumblay, who lives near the facility. “The boy ran straight to my house for protection and was screaming and crying that they just killed somebody right before his eyes,” Brumblay said.

Ackerly related to News Channel 3 what her grandson told her about Frederick’s death. “The little boy kept saying ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ and then they shoved his head into the floor,” Ackley said.

All of the escaped youths have since been located.

Shortly following Frederick’s death, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced that it had begun to remove the 47 students under its care from the facility and would be terminating its contract with the company. Other states quickly followed suit. Since then, all 125 youths housed at the facility have been transferred to other facilities or to their families.

On June 18, the MDHHS announced that it had begun the legal process of revoking Lakeside Academy’s license to operate following an investigation into the facility. After reviewing video evidence of the incident, MDHHS investigators determined that “the actions of staff were significantly disproportionate to the behavior of” Cornelius Frederick.

The department also announced that it was changing its official policy regarding restraints. “To prevent future tragedies and improve the well-being of all children in child-caring institutions, the department will change its policies to forbid the use of physical restraints in all its licensed and contracted facilities. The department will provide technical assistance to all licensed providers on alternatives to restraints prior to the policy taking effect.”

The June 18 report on the MDHHS investigation of Lakeside Academy found 10 violations of childcare institution licensing requirements, including understaffing, unqualified staff, failure of staff to intervene when students were physically restraining another student, failure to properly screen visitors for COVID-19, failure to properly document behavioral incidents involving Frederick for the 28 days prior to his death, failure to obtain proper medical consent for all students and a previous incident of improper restraint of Cornelius Frederick.

On January 4, according to the report, facility staff restrained Frederick in an unsafe manner for more than 30 minutes and then lied about the amount of time in documentation of the incident. From the report:

The facility staff involved failed to follow facility or SCM policy regarding restraint, during a January 4 restraint of Resident A. The staff restrained Resident A in a manner that was unsafe and not proportionate for the severity of his behavior. The staff involved documented in incident reports that this restraint lasted for 10 minutes, however, review of video revealed the restraint lasted in excess of 30 minutes.

View the full report here:

Lakeside For Children Exec Summary

On June 20, a group held a protest outside of Lakeside Academy, calling for an end to for-profit youth facilities across the country. After the demonstration at Lakeside, the group caravaned to the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home.

Saturday, June 20, demonstrators gathered at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, demanding an end to youth incarceration in response to the murder of Cornelius Frederick (Photo Source: WWMT).

16-year-old Lakeside Academy student dead after being restrained by staff,” Michigan Live, May 1, 2020.

‘Nothing like this has happened before,’ Lakeside Academy board chair says of student death,Michigan Live, May 1, 2020.

Students removed from Lakeside Academy after 16-year-old’s death,” Michigan Live, May 5, 2020

‘Family doesn’t believe this was an accident’ says attorney of Lakeside teen who died last week,” Fox 17, May 5, 2020.

Police: Teen dies after being restrained at youth home“, WXYZ, May 5, 2020.

Family lawyer: Lakeside Academy boy who died after being restrained ‘didn’t deserve this’,” WWMT, May 6, 2020.

Family of Lakeside Academy student seek answers about his death,” Michigan Live, May 7, 2020.

37 students, 9 staff members test positive for coronavirus at Lakeside Academy,Michigan Live, May 7, 2020.

Father worried about son’s well-being after he witnessed student’s death,Fox 17, May 8, 2020.

Lakeside Academy criticized for its COVID-19 response,WWMT, May 8, 2020.

Lakeside Academy was ‘out of control’ prior to student death, police say,” Michigan Live, May 14, 2020.

Foster care teen’s death draws scrutiny to group home outbreaks: Who is looking out for these children?USA Today, May 15, 2020.

MDHHS Suspends License of Kalamazoo Facility Where Youth Died After Being Wrongly Restrained by Staff; Department moves to forbid restraints of youth to protect children and prevent future tragedies”, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services,” June 18, 2020.

Lakeside for Children Executive Summary” Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, June 18, 2020.

Report: Lakeside staff member sat on teen’s chest for more than 9 minutes during restraint“, WWMT, June 19, 2020.

Demonstrators: Cornelius Frederick’s death exemplifies broken system,” WWMT, June 20, 2020.


Article published: June 23, 2020

Header Photo Source: WWMT