- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

A counselor at a school for emotionally disturbed teens was indicted yesterday on involuntary manslaughter and child abuse charges in the death of a student during a struggle with the counselor.
Ronald Washington, 44, was indicted by a Prince George's County, Md. grand jury for the May 14 death of Carlton Thomas, 17, at the Edgemeade-Raymond A. Rogers Jr. School in Upper Marlboro, Md. His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 14.
After the teen became disruptive, Mr. Washington used a restraining hold and Carlton suffered an asthmatic attack and became unresponsive, the Prince George's County state's attorney's office said.
Prince George's County police ruled the death a homicide after an autopsy by the state medical examiner concluded in July that Mr. Washington cut off Carlton's air supply with the restraining hold.
Edgemeade Executive Director James Filipczak said school officials were disappointed by the indictment.
"Our own internal investigation reveals that the therapeutic hold used with Mr. Thomas during the disturbance may have triggered an asthma attack," Mr. Filipczak said in a statement. "Of course we are continuing to review the circumstances of this incident."
Carlton's mother, Sheila Bracey, said of Mr. Washington: "He needs to be aware of how he handles children."
Mr. Washington, who faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted, has been on leave since the death.
According to a written account provided by Edgemeade after the incident, Carlton was among "three or four" students who were being disruptive. Staff members moved the students to an office and asked them to get on the floor after they became aggressive.
While a staff member was asking Carlton to get on the floor, "two students then either fell or jumped onto both the staff member and Mr. Thomas, causing the injury," the statement read.
The staff then pulled the students off Carlton, who passed out soon afterward.
A nurse was called, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation was administered until Carlton was transported to the hospital, where he died.
After the death, Edgemeade released a separate statement with guidelines for "therapeutic holds" that counselors use on students to "prevent injury to youth or staff" if a student became disruptive or violent.
The statement said the holds are to be used only for short durations, but could result in slight bruising or scratching.
Ms. Bracey charged that Carlton had been mistreated by Edgemeade counselors before his death, including one incident in which a counselor sat on Carlton's head for 20 minutes while trying to subdue him. She said Carlton required medical treatment after the incident.
"We had gotten reports that something went very wrong with how they dealt with Mr. Thomas, and this bolsters what we have already been hearing," said Ms. Bracey's attorney, Douglas Hopson.
The boys-only nonprofit school has 74 students in grades seven through 12.


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