On Thursday (July 16), the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that they were banning dangerous restraints in youth centers following the death of 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Fredericks, a Black teen who had been a ward of the state following his mother’s death, went into cardiac arrest when seven Lakeside Academy staff members restrained him after he reportedly threw a sandwich. The employees had their body weight on the teen for almost 12 minutes as he screamed out that he could not breathe. Video footage of the incident showed several men pinning down Fredericks’ legs and arms as other staff members sat and laid on his abdomen and chest.
The Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Fredericks’ death as a homicide caused by asphyxia. “In my opinion, the complications of him being restrained, on the ground in a supine position by multiple people, is ultimately what led to his death,” said Dr. Ted Brown.
There will now be stricter rules for how staff at youth institutions can physically restrain children. The department is “immediately prohibiting the use of prone restraints, or pinning a child face-down, as well as any other restraint that restricts a child’s breathing,” reports the outlet.
In June, the academy lost its contract with the state to be able to provide services for children in the juvenile or foster systems. Fredericks’ family filed a lawsuit just days before three of the staff members — Michael Mosley, Zachary Solis and Heather McLogan — were arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and child abuse.
“Mr. Fieger and I applaud the State for taking action to ban the use of restraints, but we wish it would not have taken the death of Cornelius to spur action,” Attorney Jonathan Marko said in a statement. “Countless children have been injured or killed as a result of these types of restraints and they are often used as way to punish children and should not be used.”