Monday, June 01, 2009

Mother questions daughter's death in state school

From the Associated Press/News West 9 in San Antonio, Texas (May 28):

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The mother of a teenager who died in the care of Texas' troubled state school system for the mentally disabled is questioning the suicide ruling and says she's getting few answers.

An autopsy report says 15-year-old Sarai Melendez hanged herself May 10 with shoelaces at San Angelo State School, the San Antonio Express-News reported today.

Evelyn Melendez, the girl's mother, said she wonders why her daughter had shoelaces when authorities said she was on 15-minute watch. The mother also said her daughter had bruises on her forehead, cheeks and legs.

The mother said the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, known as DADS, sent her numerous letters alleging abuse and neglect of her daughter. A federal investigation found widespread abuse and neglect in state schools.

Most of the allegations either weren't confirmed or were inconclusive, but one report of neglect was confirmed involving a female staff member who officials said had sent "several inappropriate messages" to Sarai Melendez's cell phone.

A DADS spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on any details of the Melendez case.