The teenager, born with Chromosome 9 Ring disease, was unable to care for himself and required help with tasks as easy as lifting a fork to his mouth.
He died Jan. 4, 2013, at Children’s Hospital from pneumonia complications, according to the state medical examiner.
But the youngster’s sister, Valerie Wood-Harber, contends he died from neglect and abuse.
Wood-Harber, 28, and her brother Cameron Wood, 15, delivered three large boxes containing signed petitions from 460,000 people urging Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to investigate DHS and the school district. The siblings claim the state agency and Mid-Del school officials ignored the situation despite being told multiple times of the alleged neglect and abuse.
Wood-Harber is hopeful the attention given to her brother’s death, including a story on CNN, will prevent future instances of abuse and neglect.
“Yes, we need to punish the offenders but we need to stop the abuse,” she said. “There needs to be more advocacy for children with disabilities. If children are not being bathed or are lethargic something is wrong. In Quentin’s case, if he didn’t have a smile on his face, something was wrong.”
The DHS and the Oklahoma City police department still are investigating circumstances surrounding the boy’s death. No one has been arrested in connection with the case.
Quinten Wood attended special education classes at Midwest City High School, but according to Wood-Harber, neither teacher Robin Collins nor any other school official took the abuse allegations seriously.
“She told me she didn’t have time to talk to me,” the sister said. “She (Collins) said he was fine and told me to mind my business and she would report something if she thought she needed to. They did nothing to intervene.”
According to Wood-Harber, the teacher attended a viewing at the funeral home a day before the boy’s burial.
“I think she realized what she could have prevented,” the sister said. “Schools are very important in preventing child abuse. They shouldn’t be afraid to step in.”
Mid-Del schools spokeswoman Stacy Boyer said she couldn’t comment on the boy’s death because of student confidentiality laws. However, she acknowledged in a statement that “safety is a first priority for our students.”
But Wood-Harber claims her brother went to school smelling like feces and urine.
“Disabled children shouldn’t smell like their own body waste. Schools need to do a better job of reporting when kids come to school and are filthy,” she said. “They should be just as happy and clean as the rest of us. I can’t believe I’m having to say this.”
Plea for help
Quinten Wood could not take care of himself. He needed help. Over the years, the boy developed mental retardation, low muscle tone and was unable to communicate verbally.
Quinten’s brother, Cameron Wood, reportedly had been forced into the role of caretaker, even during times when their father was home.
“I provided his care,” Cameron said during the Jan. 7 Capitol press conference. “I changed his diaper, cooked and fed him.”
Making matters worse, Cameron Wood claims he also was abused.
“Our dad would grab me by the throat, throw me to the ground and kneel on me. He would say I was worthless. I was 13 at the time,” he recalled. “I’m the one who found Quinten’s body. Our dad forced me to change Quinten’s diaper before we could call 911.”
Cries for help to DHS fell on deaf ears, Wood-Harber claims.
“I called them 22 times between Dec. 13, 2012 and Jan. 3, 2013 and never received a return call,” she said. “I told the social worker that Quinten was being beaten and abused, but the DHS never followed up. He was miserable and no one would help him. This should never have happened.”
At the time, Wood-Harber was living in Fayetteville, Ark., where she still resides today with her younger brother Cameron.
DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said in a statement Tuesday that the boy’s death “has been heart breaking on many levels and our investigations of his case are continuing.”
DHS is working with police, the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, the medical examiner and Children’s Hospital to “closely examine the actions and events that led up to Quinten’s death.”
In the statement, Powell said DHS will release a report summarizing the agency’s involvement when all investigations are complete.
“Our Advocate General continues to pursue justice for Quinten,” she said.
Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor acknowledges that child abuse in Oklahoma is a “problem and has been for years.”
“We have to take better care of our children in state custody, and our schools and families need to get better,” he said. “We want to know what went wrong. Was it personnel? Was it policy? It’s important that children are safe.”