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Lakeland Girls Academy closes as family of teen who died plans to sue


POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A religion-based boarding faculty in Lakeland, the place a 17-year outdated lady used to be discovered subconscious and later died, has completely closed.

“The school closed March 4, 2022, and that is the only information that I have to provide,” wrote Marilyn McGraw, director of Human Resources for Adult and Teen Challenge Southeast in a observation.

McGraw declined to remark additional on the cause of the closure or Lakeland Girls Academy or its connection to the loss of life of 17-year-old Naomi Wood, of Vermont, in 2020.

“It’s great that it’s closing. It should be closed. The directors there terribly mismanaged that whole scenario with our daughter,” mentioned Al Wood.

Wood and his spouse followed Naomi from Liberia when she used to be a baby, consistent with a memorial website created by way of her brother, Nehemiah.

“I miss her hand grabbing my hand and hearing her voice say ‘Dad,’” Al Wood mentioned.

Naomi Wood used to be a bubbly lady who preferred to talk and used to be appearing an hobby in pictures.

Al Wood keeping Noami (Courtesy: Nehemiah Wood)

On May 19, 2020, she used to be discovered subconscious in her room at Lakeland Girls Academy, a part of the Teen Challenge group. Her folks had been advised on the time she died abruptly, consistent with Wood.

During a consult with every week after her loss of life, the circle of relatives paid homage to the overdue youngster by way of amassing round her mattress, the highest bunk, the place they had been advised she used to be discovered unresponsive.

“We received closure from that moment in time as a family because we were all there together to witness that but when I read the DCF report it became abundantly clear that we were lied to,” mentioned Nehemiah Wood, Naomi Wood’s brother.

A record from the Florida Department of Children and Families was public in June 2021 and defined the state’s findings.

The record says Wood asked to look a physician about continual abdomen pains in April 2020. According to the record, reasonably than contacting a physician, personnel on the academy gave her Pepto Bismol 20 instances as the indicators endured.

Wood have been vomiting for 2 days previous to her loss of life, consistent with the record.

“Staff members made the child get up for meals and fed her soup, as that is their protocol when children are sick. They also prayed for her to get better. Facility staff did not seek any medical attention for the child until she was found in her room unresponsive,” the record reads.

First responders discovered Wood at the ground beside her bed, which have been moved from the highest bunk to the ground.

The DCF record incorporated verified findings of “inadequate supervision and medical neglect” on the academy.

“The facility did not have appropriate protocols in place to address medical emergencies and/or regular medical care with physicians,” the record reads.

Courtesy – Nehemiah Wood

The Wood circle of relatives used to be stunned.

Al Wood says the group emailed the teenager’s folks one time, asking about her historical past with abdomen issues.

“In the two days before she passed away, she was vomiting, very sick – again we were not contacted and it really comes down to neglect,” he mentioned.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office closed its felony investigation in November 2021. Her reason behind loss of life used to be dominated a “seizure disorder” by way of the scientific examiner’s place of job.

“They’re claiming she died from a seizure. We’re saying, she could have – probably not, but that does not take away from the fact that she was neglected to the point where she died,” mentioned Al Wood.

Teen Challenge has declined our request for an interview in this case.

In 2021, after the DCF record was public, Lakeland Girls Academy government director Dan Williams spoke in short to journalists out of doors his house.

“I’ve been advised by our organization just that I can’t comment on anything. We have nothing to hide regarding that incident and we’re in full cooperation with all the entities involved,” he mentioned.

According to the DCF record, Lakeland Girls Academy created a “medical coordinator” place within the wake of Wood’s loss of life, amongst different adjustments.

At the time the record used to be written, the placement used to be being crammed by way of the director’s spouse.

The Wood circle of relatives is looking for extra coverage adjustments.

Lawyers representing the circle of relatives plan to document a wrongful loss of life negligence lawsuit by way of the tip of the week.

“She was neglected and there’s a good chance she would be alive today had they actually taken action and took her to a doctor. It’s as simple as that,” mentioned Al Wood.



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