Just two years after the last death in a juvenile facility run by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, two teenage boys have committed suicide less than three weeks apart. These tragedies are coming all too frequently, and it renews the question of whether DCS is following all of its procedures to protect the children in its care.
On July 13, Brandon Charles Greene, 16, hanged himself in his room at Mountain View Youth Development Center in Dandridge. On Aug. 1, an 18-year-old whose name has not yet been released hanged himself, also at Mountain View. Local police, DCS investigators and medical examiners are investigating both cases. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth are to review the incidents, while an internal DCS review is looking at the facility staff.
Sometimes, teens (and adults, for that matter) who have suicidal thoughts succeed at keeping those thoughts a secret. But what are we to make of Greene, who according to his mother had been placed on suicide watch several times since April, before being taken off watch just days before his death?
As Everette Parish, an attorney who has previously represented children in DCS youth-center incidents, put it: "Obviously if a child has been on suicide watch several times and then they commit suicide, you have not done enough or read the signs."
Greene apparently was able to be alone in a facility housing 115 boys while the other kids left to shower, just days after being considered a risk to himself. We must ask this as well: Were there adequate medical and psychological resources and oversight for these two young men at this facility, which after all, is primarily a detention center for delinquent youth?
In 2012, when Kendall Oates died of a seizure at Woodland Hills, DCS' detention center in Nashville, a judge had previously ordered that the 18-year-old be placed in a more appropriate facility for his needs. He was not taking his anti-seizure medication and guards were not checking on him as prescribed.
Brandon Greene and the unidentified teen who died in the past month, also, may have needed more help and supervision than they were getting.
With such a history of problems, we cannot give DCS the benefit of the doubt, and urge that DCS be completely transparent on the outcome of the investigation of these deaths.