HONOLULU — The lawyer representing the mother of the 17-year-old knife-wielding teen shot in the wrist by police at a Honolulu high school blames the shooting on the state education department’s failure to give the boy the psychiatric support he needs.
Attorney Eric Seitz, who focuses on education law, said he’s working to ensure the education department provides the teen with a secure, 24-hour treatment program on the mainland. Seitz said there are only short-term facilities in Hawaii, which aren’t equipped to handle the teen’s problems.
Seitz said the teen’s diagnosis for about a year included schizophrenia and psychosis, compounded by an underlying substance-abuse problem. He was identified as a special education student several years ago, Seitz said. The Associated Press isn’t identifying him because of his age.
The teen’s mother has struggled with the school district resisting her efforts to place him in an appropriate facility, as required by education law, Seitz said.
“These same educators who are being lauded for doing such a good job are the people who caused this mess in the first place,” Seitz said. “She’s a single mom, struggling economically. She’s been through horrible experiences. She’s been literally begging the school and the Department of Health to do what he needs.”
A spokeswoman for the education department declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the health department declined to comment, citing medical treatment privacy laws.
Police said officers fired at the student Tuesday at Roosevelt High School when he slashed an officer and punched two others.
Seitz acknowledged the officers were confronted with a dangerous situation that transpired when the truant teen, who has repeatedly run away from various treatment facilities, showed up at the school to register for classes in an attempt to straighten out his life.
Details are sketchy about what happened, Seitz said, but police were called because school staff recognized him as a teen who was reported as a runaway. The teen’s mother reported him as a runaway to police, Seitz said.
“The kid has had outbursts. I guess he’s frightened everyone around him. The reports are he had a knife,” Seitz said. “I’m relieved that he wasn’t killed or more seriously injured.”
The teen was taken to a hospital in serious condition and was to be released Thursday night or Friday, after undergoing surgery and receiving antibiotics, he said.