Michigan ends ties with company after teen’s restraint, death in Kalamazoo facility

Michigan officials cut ties with staffing agency, revoke license of youth academy

Cornelius Frederick, 16, died on May 1, 2020 after being restrained by staff at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo on April 29. Photo courtesy of the family's attorney.
Cornelius Frederick, 16, died on May 1, 2020 after being restrained by staff at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo on April 29. Photo courtesy of the family's attorney. (Marko Law, PLLC)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to no longer work with a company that provided staffing for a facility where a 16-year-old died earlier this year while being wrongly restrained.

Whitmer said in a statement late Saturday that Sequel Youth and Family Services cannot provide services for facilities licensed by the state agency.

“Protecting our most vulnerable is a top priority of my administration, and the senseless death of a youth at Lakeside for Children in Kalamazoo is intolerable and heartbreaking. We will take steps to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future and make sure there is accountability,” Whitmer said Saturday. “Today I directed MDHHS Director Robert Gordon to take every step necessary to ensure Sequel Youth and Family Services -- the company that provided staffing for Lakeside for Children where the 16-year-old died -- no longer provides services for facilities licensed by the department.”

Cornelius Frederick died May 1 after going into cardiac arrest April 29. At the time, authorities said he was being restrained by staff after throwing a sandwich.

Cornelius Frederick, 16, pictured at the hospital after being restrained by staff at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo on April 29, 2020. Frederick later died on May 1. Photo courtesy of the family's attorney. (Marko Law, PLLC)

The state on Thursday terminated its contracts with Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo. The MDHHS has also suspended the academy’s license following Frederick’s death, officials said.

“MDHHS continues to mourn the loss of this young man’s life, which came needlessly to an end at the hands of those meant to care for him,” said JooYeun Chang, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency. “We are committed to protecting children and will not accept the completely unnecessary death of a youth who is deprived of the opportunity to grow up, complete his education, begin a career, and start a family. Not only is it critical that we hold the agency accountable -- we must also improve our policies and practices so that a tragedy like this never happens again.”

Lakeside Academy has been previously cited for violations of staff qualifications and sufficiency. In a special report from MDHHS one staff member allegedly slapped, choked and scratched a student in January.

The Associated Press left an email Sunday morning seeking comment from Sequel Family and Youth Services.

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