Kevin Schools On Son's Death: 'I Couldn't Understand How This Happened'

Jason Schools died in 2007 after drowning in the pond at Elizabeth Park in Hartford. Investigators with the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities would determine that his caregiver failed to keep an eye on him. (HANDOUT)

"I saw the boy from the group home,'' Schools said of the worker who had brought Jason to the park. "There were tears in his eyes. He said he couldn't swim. He expressed his apologies. I still had compassion for the kid.''

But through the grief and the inevitable guilt, Schools felt rage. How could this happen? How could a worker who couldn't swim be entrusted with the care of a young man who loved water, at a city park with ponds?

"At the beginning, you're screaming with rage. It isn't fair,'' Schools said.

A state investigation into Jason's death confirmed neglect against the worker and the group home.

"The client was known to have a seizure disorder which required that staff remain within an arm's-length distance when [the client] was ambulating, and when out in the community,'' wrote the death investigator for the protection and advocacy office.

"The staff worker had been counseled by his supervisors on the previous day regarding the need to maintain a close distance between himself and the client,'' the investigator reported.

"The evidence further indicated that the agency did not have any procedures in place for knowing and monitoring the whereabouts of residents while on outings with the staff,'' the report said.

The worker was fired. A lawsuit between the family and the group home was settled. Kevin Schools can't discuss the terms, but said he felt empty afterward.

"The state has procedures, but not everything is followed. A lot of the staff in this field are well intentioned, but in some cases there is pure complacency,'' Schools said.

He said that's why he agreed to speak for this report.

"I want Jason's legacy to be that someone else doesn't die under these circumstances,'' Schools said. "But what do you do? You can't buy quality of care. It has to come from inside the heart.''

He drew an analogy to his job overhauling airplanes.

"With the FAA, everything is traceable to you. You're accountable. A lot of people's lives are at stake when you're in the air.

"In a way, the lives of people like Jason are in the hands of the caregivers. People have to be accountable. There's a lot at stake.''