Autistic teens ingests glove in class and dies. Parents file negligence lawsuit.
Bryan and Tanya Levy of Maryland, the parents of an autistic 17-year-old Bowen “Bo” Levy, who died in class after choking on a glove, have filed a lawsuit against the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, the board president and the principal of Central Special School, alleging the school was negligent in the events leading up to their son’s death. The teen passed at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center just eight days before his 18th birthday on November 5, 2019.
Last year, the Maryland Department of Social Services also concluded in its probe the autistic teen’s death “likely involved child neglect.” It reported he died as a result of the “systemic failure” at the school.
“Normally, Bowen’s classroom would have a teacher, two teacher aides and a one-to-one person assigned to Bowen,” the lawsuit explains. However, the day of the incident, “his one-to-one aide was absent, the teacher had left in the afternoon and there were substitutes. Because of the lack of supervision in the classroom, Bowen got hold of a rubber glove and swallowed it, cutting off oxygen for 10 minutes and dying in the hospital five days later.” In addition to being autistic, Bowen had also been diagnosed with pica, which is an eating disorder in which an individual has a compulsion to ingest non-edible substances. The school was aware of this condition.
“Bowen’s pica was well known to the Anne Arundel County school system, which promised to provide him one on one supervision, a promise his parents relied upon. Anne Arundel County Public Schools broke that promise,” attorneys for his parents said.
The lawsuit seeks damages exceeding $75,000 and a jury trial on behalf of Bowen’s estate for “negligence, breach of contract, survival action and wrongful death.” The Levys said they filed after repeated requests to the school about the status the federal agency’s probe were left unanswered and they were forced to follow up with their own investigation into the matter.
“I can’t bring my son back,” Bryan said. “What I care most about is making sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s child.”
Bryan said he believes the negligence and lack of sufficient one on one attention and support for special needs kids that occurred at Central Special School is “a county-wide issue extending beyond Bowen’s school.” He reported receiving “dozens of emails and phone calls from people asking him not to quit the fight for children with disabilities to be safe in school.”
Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto requested eleven additional permanent substitute teachers be added to the staff at the three specialty developmental schools – Ruth Parker Eason, Marley Glen and Central Special — following Bowen’s death, to increase one-on-one attention of the district’s special needs students.
“We and especially the staff at Central Special School continue to grieve the loss of Bowen,” said school spokesperson Bob Mosier.