She also claims teachers and school administrators missed obvious signs of abuse and neglect, including numerous absences and lack of personal hygiene.
Wood-Harber’s brother, Quinten Wood, 15, died Jan. 4, 2012 from pneumonia complications; but his life was filled with adults who didn’t care for his needs, she alleges.
Born with a rare chromosomal abnormality, Quinten was unable to care for himself and toward the end of his life required help with tasks as easy as lifting a fork to his mouth. He had the mental capacity of a 3-yearold, his sister said.
Shortly after his death, Wood-Harber began an online petition calling for Gov. Mary Fallin to investigate the state Department of Human Services and Mid-Del schools for their alleged neglect and failure to act. Last week, she and younger brother, Cameron, 15, brought 460,000 signature sheets in three large boxes to the State Capitol. They presented the petitions to Fallin’s legal counsel, Steve Mullins.
In May 2012, Wood-Harber said she talked to Mid-Del’s Dean Hinton, director of special services at Mid-Del Schools, “at length” and expressed con cerns
that teachers failed their duties to help her brother. According to Wood- Harber, Hinton promised to investigate the issue and get back in touch.
“I never heard from him again,” she said in a telephone interview Jan. 10 from her Fayetteville, Ark., home.
Wood-Harber also claims she tried to arrange an appointment with the high school principal but did not receive a return call.
Stacy Boyer, spokeswoman for Mid-Del schools, declined to comment on Wood-Harber’s allegations.
“From what I saw when I was in town and would go to the school, all they did was put them in front of a TV. They should have been teaching him life skills, not just acting as babysitters,” she said.
Quinten Wood was supposed to have been receiving physical, occupational and speech therapy while enrolled at Midwest City High School, but his sister contends that didn’t happen either.
“I had him in my care for four years, and he was capable of learning,” Wood-Harber said. “He could climb off the couch and scoot to the bedroom when he was with me. He could brush his teeth. He was making an effort to do these things. Quinten was capable of learning; it just took him longer. You had to work with him, which is what I did.”
Quinten was returned to his father’s custody in 2008, when Wood-Harber became financially unable to care for him any longer. In that environment, the boy suffered a major setback, Wood- Harber claims.
“When he went back there, he began eating with his hands, shoveling food in his face,” she recalled. “He would lay in one place all day.”
Wood-Harber’s father, Michael Wood, did not return a phone call for comment.
Wood-Harber claims her brother went to school smelling like feces and urine, but school officials never questioned why.
“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.”
DHS failed, too
Mid-Del schools are not the only public entity that ignored Quinten Wood’s suffering. DHS has a fair share of the burden to bear, his sister said.
“I called them 22 times between Dec. 13, 2012 and Jan. 3, 2013 and never received a return call,” she said. “This should never have happened.”
DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said in a statement Jan. 7 that the boy’s death “has been heartbreaking 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 The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center to “closely examine the actions and events that led up to Quinten’s death.”
Wood-Harber is hopeful that the attention given to her brother’s death, including published stories in several large newspapers nationwide and 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 Quinten’s case, if he didn’t have a smile on his face, something was wrong.”