A 14-year-old girl died while being physically restrained at a juvenile treatment center operated by Lutheran Social Services of the South Inc. The incident occurred at the Krause Children's Residential Treatment Center in Katy, Texas, Oct. 12.
The Harris County Medical Examiner's office issued a preliminary determination that the cause of death for the teenager was "mechanical asphyxiation" or compression of the windpipe. A complete autopsy report, including toxicology findings, was still pending in mid-November, as were any criminal charges.
Kurt Senske, president of the Austin-based social agency, said an internal investigation had found no wrongdoing by staff members, but four were put on paid leave until the matter is resolved. Senske said the procedures used to restrain the teenager are common nationwide and "the least harmful" possible. "Obviously, something went horribly wrong," he said.
The Krause Center, which opened in 1995, houses up to 62 juveniles referred by probation departments or judges.
Kathryn Kerr, the agency's associate vice president for public relations, said the entire staff at Krause was taking the teen's death hard. As a result of the incident, she said, Krause lost a contract with the Katy school district, which had sent disruptive students to classes taught at the center.
The agency cares for more than 250 emotionally disturbed children at five treatment centers in Texas and Louisiana.
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