‘There’s Simply No Words for the Injustice That Occurred Here’: Family of Special Needs Student Sues School after a Medical Emergency on Their Watch Leads to Death

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare come true for the family of Kevon DeLeon, a 17-year-old special-needs teen who was sent to school but never made it back home alive.

“What should have happened is, he stays at school, taken to school on a bus and he comes home on a school bus,” said Reauchean DeLeon-Watson.

Reauchean DeLeon-Watson is Kevon’s grandmother and legal guardian, and she has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against her grandson’s school. DeLeon, who suffered from seizures since he was 2 years old, was sent to Everest Academy in Vallejo, California, about 30-miles north of Oakland. The school is designed specifically for students with special needs. On September 21, 2021, the special needs student who also dealt with several conditions including epilepsy, encephalopathy, and diminished executive functioning, was outside with his class when he wandered away from the group at 12:30 p.m. unnoticed by teachers on hand.

“There might have been a fight or something going on that staff, and everybody was paying attention to, but you’ve got to watch out for all the children that are there, somebody should have been watching out,” DeLeon-Watson said.

DeLeon managed to walk through a gate and off his school’s campus. His grandmother estimates he walked roughly two miles before he began to experience a seizure. “He tried to call his father, and I think he was on the onset of having seizures then, he couldn’t tell his father where he was, he had multiple seizures,” she described. DeLeon eventually fell to the ground in distress, and a good Samaritan noticed the teen and called 911 for medical help.

“By the time he got to Kaiser and Vallejo, his heart had stopped, they were able to revive him and get him stabilized at Kaiser Vallejo, then they transported him to Kaiser Oakland, but by then the damage was done,” DeLeon-Watson said of her grandson’s deteriorating condition. “I think he was without oxygen for fifteen maybe twenty minutes before he was able to be revived,” she continued.

DeLeon was hospitalized and hooked up to a breathing tube as his condition worsened for three days until he died on Sept. 25, 2021. His cause of death, cardiopulmonary arrest, multisystem organ failure and status epilepticus, a seizure that lasts longer than five minutes.

DeLeon-Watson is blaming his school, which is part of the Vallejo City Unified School District, for her grandson’s death.

“He should have never been allowed to leave school. If he would have stayed at school, the procedure is, get him stabilized, they call the ambulance, they come get him, they take him to the emergency room, then they call me and/or they notify his father,” DeLeon-Watson said.

“Our goal in this lawsuit beyond the meat and potatoes of the allegations of wrongful death and negligence on behalf of the school, is to make sure we send a strong message to Vallejo Unified School District, and it reverberates to other school districts that you have to ensure that these children who are the most vulnerable that they have the support that they need,” said Jamie E. Wright-Harrison, one of the attorneys representing DeLeon’s family in their lawsuit.

DeLeon’s family is suing for negligence, negligent hiring, retention, supervision and training and survival action. The family’s attorneys say although they eventually expect to ask for monetary damages, the amount remains unspecified at this time.

“There’s really no words to speak to the amount of negligence that transpired here,” said Bryan J. Harrison, one of the attorneys representing DeLeon’s family.

Atlanta Black Star asked a spokesperson for the Vallejo City Unified School District how a special-needs student could leave campus unnoticed, and to get a response to the allegations listed in the lawsuit, the spokesperson said, “the district will not respond to specific claims made by attorneys involving pending litigation.”

DeLeon’s grandmother says, aside from a bouquet of flowers, she has not heard from the school district at all. “I asked them for his diploma, he earned that diploma, he worked for that, and I’ve gotten no response,” she said.

A year after his death, DeLeon’s family is still struggling with the loss of their beloved jovial aspiring actor-to-be. “He loved singing, dancing and making TikToks, he was looking forward to turning 18 and looking forward to graduating,” DeLeon-Watson said of her grandson.

The family hopes their lawsuit can bring about change so no other student suffers the same fate as Kevon.

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