- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

WESTMINSTER, Md. — A grand jury has indicted six former staff members at a school for juvenile offenders on charges of reckless endangerment in the death of a 17-year-old student.

The indictments were announced yesterday at a press conference in Westminster.

Isaiah Simmons died suddenly Jan. 23 while being restrained by staff at Bowling Brook Preparatory School, which has since closed.

Medical examiners ruled his death a homicide. The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the case.

State’s Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said the charges stemmed from a 41-minute period during which Isaiah was unresponsive, but staff didn’t call 911.

“They thought he was faking,” Mr. Barnes said.

The grand jury indicted Michael P. Corradi of Middletown, Pa.; Dennis Harding of Baltimore; Brian G. Kanavy of Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Jason W. Robinson of Westminster; Shadi Sabbagh of Keymar, Md.; and Mark R. Sainato also of Keymar.

The school said it was disappointed that the men face the charges.

“Bowling Brook maintains that this incident was unintentional and that these gentlemen have always had the utmost concern for the well-being of all of our students,” the school stated.

School Administrator Brian Hayden said the school fully supports its former employees.

“Hopefully, the truth will bear out through the criminal proceedings, and these gentlemen will be found innocent of all charges,” he said.

The grand jury declined to indict the men on the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Steven Heisler, an attorney for Isaiah’s family, said he disagreed with that decision and has asked Mr. Barnes to file manslaughter charges against the six employees.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment, each man faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Bowling Brook, a 50-year-old nonprofit organization, was under contract with the state of Maryland to educate boys in trouble with the law. Youths there, including some from Pennsylvania, were relocated to other schools after its closure.

The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services placed Isaiah at the school after he was convicted in 2006 of robbery with a deadly weapon.

His death prompted the agency to reform its crisis-intervention policies.

“The Department of Juvenile Services has fully cooperated with Carroll County investigators and has been working to implement immediate reforms, including the closure of Bowling Brook Preparatory School, to prevent future incidents of this nature,” said Donald DeVore, the state secretary of juvenile services.

Under the new policies, staffers at state-owned and private juvenile facilities have been advised that youths should be restrained only if there is an immediate risk of harm.

Restraints should last a maximum of 30 minutes, in 15-minute intervals. Isaiah was restrained over a period of several hours.

Restraints also must now be videotaped, and medical staff will have to be consulted in the event of a restraint that lasts 15 minutes, Mr. DeVore said yesterday.

“These are things that, based on my experience, if they had been in place at the time that Isaiah died, might have saved his life,” he said.

Staff at juvenile facilities must be trained in the new procedures and must seek recertification annually.

Mr. DeVore said he would not allow staff to use compliance techniques that caused pain. “There are methods for juveniles that are safe methods of dealing with kids that don’t cause pain,” he said.

The department also ordered inspections of all juvenile facilities. Mr. DeVore said he expects to receive reports from those inspections by next week.

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