“I Can’t Breathe.” It Happens at Schools, Too.

by Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, and Jodi S. Cohen: For More Info, Go Here…

Students in Illinois schools said “I can’t breathe” while being restrained at least 30 times over the time period we investigated, according to our analysis of the records. The practice of face-down restraint is still legal in Illinois.

A 16-year-old boy in Kalamazoo, Michigan, died this spring after workers pinned him to the floor at the residential facility where he lived — after he’d thrown a sandwich at lunch. While held on the ground, he told them: “I can’t breathe.”

At least 70 people have died in law enforcement custody in the last decade after saying the words “I can’t breathe,” a recent New York Times investigation found. But just as adults have died after being restrained, so have children.

And though we encountered no fatalities, we also repeatedly saw those words among the 50,000 pages of school incident reports on restraint and seclusion that we reviewed for The Quiet Rooms investigation, published last year. School workers documented they had restrained a child in a face-down, or prone, position and the student pleaded to be let up, saying he or she couldn’t breathe.

The scenarios were similar to the Kalamazoo case, where video released this week shows Cornelius Fredericks was restrained in the cafeteria at Lakeside Academy for about 20 minutes as school workers held down his arms and legs and sat on top of his chest and abdomen.

“I can’t breathe,” he told the employees who held him down, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of his estate. An autopsy found he died of asphyxia, and three employees were charged with manslaughter and child abuse in his death. They’ve said publicly that they were following the facility’s protocols.

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