Lakeland Residential School under investigation after teenager died who was denied medical treatment

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LAKELAND, Fla – A Lakeland girls’ boarding school is under investigation after a 17-year-old student died while in care.

Lakeland Girls Academy, also known as the Teen Challenge, is a denominational boarding school that claims to help girls in difficulty. 17-year-old Naomi Wood arrived at residential school in February 2020 and just three months later passed away.

Grace Coburn, a former student, said it was not surprising.

“This is expected from such a place that shows so much neglect towards all its students. However, that doesn’t make him any less sad, ”she said.

An autopsy report indicated that Wood died of a seizure disorder. ABC Action News obtained the report on child deaths from the Florida Department of Children and Families. He said his death was due to inadequate monitoring and medical negligence.

“When one of us complained about being sick, we assumed we were faking it,” said Sela Freuler, a former student of Lakeland Girls Academy.

According to the report, Wood had been complaining of an upset stomach for a month. She was not taken to the doctor, but staff members gave her Pepto-Bismol 20 times, soup and also prayed that she would be better.

Wood began to vomit on the evening of May 18, 2020. The next day, she was found unconscious in her bedroom and later pronounced dead.

Additionally, in the report, the medical director of the Florida Child Protection Team noted that the academy uses the practice of avoidance.

“Where you are not allowed to speak aloud to anyone. Anytime you want to speak, you have to write it down,” Coburn said.

According to the DCF report, the school added a post of medical coordinator. ABC Action News has contacted the school about the report and has yet to receive a response.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the case was under review by the state attorney’s office.

“I want there to be a charge and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen in similar facilities,” Freuler said.


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