Published June 4, 2024

Mom of teen who died at eastern Ontario school urges all to hold their kids tight

By  Allison Jones
. Landyn Ferris is seen in an undated family handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Ferris Family

Brenda Davis and her 16-year-old son used to pick wildflowers together. Now, she picks them alone to leave at his grave every morning.

Landyn Ferris, who had a form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, died on May 14 after being found alone and unresponsive in a sensory room at school, Davis says.

She is pushing for answers as to how that could have happened, but in the meantime is also urging all parents to "hold their babies tight."

"I'm broken," she wrote in a statement read at a press conference Tuesday by a vice-president of the Ontario Autism Coalition. "My boy is gone. His laugh is a memory. His light snuffed out too soon. I will forever be haunted."

Davis received a text from Trenton High School that day saying there was an emergency, and she tried to call back but it didn't go through so she rushed over to the school, she said.

"Minutes later, I walked into the classroom to find my son on a stretcher, receiving CPR, his hand hanging to the side, fingers already blue," Davis wrote in her statement. "That's when it hit me. This isn't seizure intervention. This is resuscitation."

Ferris was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead.

"I don't know how long he was gone before someone discovered him alone and cold in that room," she wrote. 

"The last time I saw my boy's beautiful smile was when I dropped him off at his school at 10:30 a.m. that morning. My last memory of Landyn is in a casket surrounded by his favourite toys."

A family representative has said Ferris was at risk of seizures while sleeping, and that Davis had previously expressed concerns to the school about the teen napping and had asked that he be properly supervised.

The Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board said it has launched an internal review to determine "how this tragedy happened, and to assess what systemic changes are needed to provide even greater safety for our students."

"We are committed to preventing a situation like this from ever happening again by implementing any changes needed," the board wrote in a statement.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he would encourage the school board to make any findings public, though he can't order them to do so.

"I think families and staff need to have confidence that when their kids are in schools, they're safe, and so transparency, I think that's really fundamental," he said.

The coroner is also conducting a death investigation, and Lecce said he would urge people to wait for the investigations to be complete before making assumptions about what may have happened.

"We literally know nothing at this point," he said. "So I want to avert the instinct of making assumptions, or what I observed from some of the members opposite of attempting to politicize this issue."

NDP education critic Chandra Pasma said schools desperately need more funding for special education, including more educational assistants.

"We don't need to wait for the results of the investigation to make sure that this doesn't happen again and that no other parent needs to receive the news that Brenda did," she said. 

"Parents of children with special needs, including the Ontario Autism Coalition, have been warning for years that if we did not take action to increase resources for special education, it was a matter of when, not if, a child would come to severe harm in an Ontario school."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2024.

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