A 17-year-old girl succumbed to her injuries after staff at a Tennessee group home “body slammed” and later “assaulted” her after she allegedly refused to undress in the presence of two male counselors, Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference.
Per NBC News, the November 16 incident, which happened at Youth Villages, resulted in Alegend Jones being admitted to a hospital. Jones, who was staying in the group home, later succumbed to her injuries.
Crump said the incident occurred after two male counselors at the facility took the teen to the health department for an examination. Crump said Jones was then allegedly asked to take off her clothes, but she declined to do that in front of the male counselors.
The attorney said Jones was then “body slammed” by the two counselors, adding that though the health department’s medical staff subsequently contacted police, Jones was returned to the group home.
Crump also claimed that “over a dozen counselors at Youth Village assaulted and battered this teenage child” after she was taken back to the facility. Jones’ mother, Shona Garner-White, also spoke at the news conference.
She said she sent her daughter to Youth Villages as she had mental health issues. She also said her daughter was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, manic depression, and bipolar disorder at the age of 14, NBC News reported.
“I sent her to Youth Village to get help and now they’re sending my baby back in a casket,” Garner-White said.
Responding to the allegations in a statement, Youth Villages claimed that “many of the statements and comments circulating publicly about this incident are false and inaccurate.”
“When the child exhibited symptoms of a medical emergency, our staff immediately responded following our protocols for emergency medical intervention. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) was also called and arrived onsite within minutes,” the facility said elsewhere in the statement. “The child was taken to the hospital where she later passed away.”
The facility also claimed there were “no abusive or otherwise inappropriate interactions directed toward” Jones. “The young person was brought to the health department by two female staff and was never alone with male staff or asked to undress in front of male staff,” Youth Villages claimed.
An investigation into the incident has since been launched by the Bartlett Police Department and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
“We are working closely with all relevant public safety and health authorities in response to this incident and are awaiting the official medical reports,” Youth Villages said in the statement. “We are also fully cooperating with the official investigations.”
In a statement, Crump described the details surrounding Jones’ death as “shocking.” “No family should have to endure the pain of losing a child under such horrific circumstances,” the attorney said.
Crump also said they are demanding a “thorough and impartial investigation into the events that led to Alegend’s tragic death, including the public release of any and all footage from the Youth Villages.”
“Her family deserves answers and justice, and we will continue to work on their behalf to ensure that those responsible for these heinous acts are held accountable,” the statement added.
“This heartbreaking loss once again underscores the urgent need for accountability and reform within our systems that are meant to protect and care for our young people – young people like Alegend Jones.”