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Improper Placement of John Odgren Leaves 2 Family Tragedies

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John Odgren is currently under a six-month evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital, and after that he faces 70 years jail time. He stabbed a fellow student at the specialty school they both attended.

Not only did John Odgren deal with a characteristic presentation of Asperger's, he also was followed and treated for depression, ADHD, and bipolar - among other psychiatric conditions. The sad fact is that prior to the school stabbing, he was inappropriately transferred to a specialty program - intended for those who do not have potential for violence. This transfer was reported to be encouraged by his school district, while his parents raised objections. Furthermore, it appears that the district did not inform the new teachers of John Odgren's full psychiatric presentation.

If any educational or medical professional were to consider all of the conditions for which he was treated, there should have been a better understanding of the potential for aggression, violence and assault - given exposure to exacerbating conditions; ones unique to each individual psychiatric presentation. The conditions that would exacerbate John Odgren could only be understood by those who had some sort of ongoing understanding of what triggers his outbursts.

A review of this particular case seems to indicate that some responsibility lies with the individuals at the school district who encouraged the transfer to the specialty school, if it is true that the administrators who initiated the transfer did not supply all the information on John Odgren. Had the new teaching team been aware of the young man's full presentation, they might have either refused placement or allowed placement with supports in place that would not have allowed him to be alone in the bathroom with this other student. Full disclosure might have caused the specialty school to keep a closer eye on young Odgren, in the form of an aide being present.

I have a hard time understanding how the school district that encouraged the transfer to the specialty school would knowingly encourage the transfer of a potentially violent student, to a place intended for those who have no inclination toward that type of presentation. Perhaps, he was thought to be doing better - and not a threat.

There is an ebb and flow to some psychiatric presentations. There is a scenario where times of worsening, invade the usually better times. This is something that might become more evident to the schools as they service a growing number of children that have such tremendous obstacles in their path as far as differing forms of psychosis.

From a personal perspective...My daughter transitioned from a specialty school that handled those dealing with behaviors associated with psychosis and autism, back to regular school in the special ed department. During the first part of the transition the professionals in the room felt she was better and wouldn't require all that much in the area of special supports. During our first transition meeting I voiced the concern that new staff must read the entire record and specifics of her outburst so that if the outburst (psychosis and catatonia like) did come about they would not be taken by surprise and might be prepared for them - instead of shocked by them. 

Eventually my daughter did present with a worsening during school, during a time of medication adjustment. At that point point the school regrouped and intensified their already existing efforts to inform themselves on her entire presentation. They provided proper support for her times of worsening and we all got through it. The teaching team involved has experienced - a greater understanding of all that encompasses the future of special education for those who present similarly.

Professionals who have the tools should develop a program for teaching kids with inclination toward psychosis, very specifically, that even in their wrong mind they will be responsible for doing harm to others. Many of these affected individuals have issues to do with intellect as far as understanding about real life actions and consequences. The concept of not hurting others is a simple one that can be emphasized to a degree that might provide enough impact to negate the possibility of harm - even when one is in their wrong mind. 

My own daughter, has herself - eliminated any media or other tools for entertainment that supply with intrigue and violence. She finds she must stay complete away from those types of things or she becomes drawn in by them with negative consequences. I find it fascinating that she removed the things on her own, so that she might feel better. The things she removed had a type of negativity that affected her ability to feel safe, really contributing to what looked like paranoia. While the things she removed would seem benign to most, they were things that became like a cancer to her psyche and she needed to "get rid of them" (her words).

With regard to the impact of John Odgren's actions, it will be up to those who are wronged to offer forgiveness, or not.  The actions of Mr. Odgren resulted in unspeakable tragedy, but let us not forget there were other players in the scenario that might have some explaining to do. Especially if they knowingly insisted upon inappropriate placement and did not provide full disclosure.


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