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Lawyer blames school district for shooting of teen

HONOLULU (AP) – The lawyer representing the mother of the 17-year-old knife-wielding teen shot in the wrist by police at a Honolulu high school blames the shooting on the state education department’s failure to give the boy the psychiatric support he needs.

Attorney Eric Seitz, who focuses on education law, said he’s working to ensure the education department provides the teen with a secure, 24-hour treatment program on the mainland. Seitz says there are only short-term facilities in Hawaii, which aren’t equipped to handle the teen’s problems.

Seitz said the teen’s diagnosis for about a year has included schizophrenia and psychosis, compounded by an underlying substance-abuse problem. He was identified as a special education student several years ago, Seitz said. The Associated Press isn’t identifying him because of his age.

The teen’s mother has struggled with the school district resisting her efforts to place him in an appropriate facility, as required by education law, Seitz said.

“These same educators who are being lauded for doing such a good job are the people who caused this mess in the first place,” Seitz said. “She’s a single mom, struggling economically. She’s been through horrible experiences. She’s been literally begging the school and the Department of Health to do what he needs.”

A spokeswoman for the education department declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the health department declined to comment, citing medical treatment privacy laws.

Police say officers fired at him Tuesday at Roosevelt High School when he slashed an officer and punched two others.

Seitz acknowledges the officers were confronted with a dangerous situation that transpired when the truant teen, who has repeatedly run away from various treatment facilities, showed up at the school to register for classes in an attempt to straighten out his life.

Details are sketchy about what happened, Seitz said, but police were called because school staff recognized him as a teen who had been reported as a runaway. The teen’s mother reported him as a runaway to police, Seitz said.

“The kid has had outbursts. I guess he’s frightened everyone around him. The reports are he had a knife,” Seitz said. “I’m relieved that he wasn’t killed or more seriously injured.”

The teen was taken to a hospital in serious condition and was to be released Thursday night or Friday, after undergoing surgery and receiving antibiotics, he said. The teen hasn’t be charged criminally, Seitz added.

Seitz said he has arranged a meeting with school officials next week to amend his Individualized Education Program to include treatment at a mainland facility.

For now, the focus is getting the teen treatment, Seitz said, instead of dissecting how police handled the situation.

“It’s low on the list of priorities,” he said. “I’m not about to criticize the police in this circumstance based on what I know now.”


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