Suits In Renner-Lewis Restraint Death Come To Quick End
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 19, 2006
KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN--The family of Michael Renner-Lewis III has settled a lawsuit they had filed against officials of the school where the 15-year-old boy died.
Michael, who had autism, died on August 25, 2003 -- the first day of school at Parchment High -- after being restrained facedown by school staff.
According to various accounts, school officials said Michael had a seizure early in the day. He recovered from the seizure, but soon became agitated. Four staff members "tried to quiet" the 6-foot, 165-pound teen by restraining him on his stomach. Each grabbed one of his limbs and sat down on the floor next to him in a room behind the school auditorium, police said.
At some point Michael closed his eyes and stopped breathing. Attempts to revive him were not successful.
While autopsy results listed Michael's cause of death as "prolonged physical restraint in prone position associated with extreme mental and motor agitation", criminal charges were not filed because the county medical examiner ruled his death an accident.
Four months after his death, Michael's family sued the Parchment School District, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency and their employees for assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment, gross negligence and violation of his constitutional rights.
The Kalamazoo Gazette reported on June 9 that the case was settled out of court in May, with the family splitting a $1.3 million settlement -- about $425,000 of which will go to attorneys fees and other costs. The family had originally sued for $25 million.
In related news, the Gazette reported that a separate suit, filed in May of last year by the Autism Society of Michigan and the Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, was dismissed last month. The advocacy groups wanted a federal court to order the school to implement rules regarding restraint techniques, and to train school staff on how and when to use or not use restraints.
"Settlement in Parchment student death Michael Renner-Lewis' family to receive part of $1.3 million" (Kalamazoo Gazette)
"The Death of Michael Renner-Lewis III" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)