BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
The parents of 12-year-old Rory Staunton, who died five years ago after contracting sepsis during an incident in gym class at Garden School in Jackson Heights, said that they are taking further action against the independent school.
Rory’s mother, Ciaran Staunton, and father, Orlaith Staunton, will submit a formal complaint to the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), challenging the accreditation of the Garden School. On March 27, 2012, the Stauntons’ son cut his elbow while playing basketball at school. When the wound reopened the following day, the gym teacher applied Band-Aids without washing the cut. According to the Stauntons, “The school did not have protocols in place to ensure that cuts were treated properly and the staff was not made aware of the potential dangers of these types of wounds.”
Sepsis occurs when chemicals released in the bloodstream to fight an infection trigger inflammation throughout the body, causing changes that damage multiple organ systems, leading them to fail and occasionally resulting in death. At the time of the incident, Rory’s pediatrician and doctors at New York University Langone Medical Center mistook his illness for a stomach virus.
“At every step of this very painful journey that began the day Rory returned home from Garden School with a scraped elbow, our primary goal has been to do everything we can to avoid another family suffering the untimely and unnecessary loss of a family member due to sepsis,” Ciaran Staunton said. “We have been engaged in litigation with Garden School in an effort to encourage the school to evaluate whether and how it maintains a clean and safe environment for students. We also seek to improve the manner in which staff and professionals treat students injured while at the school.”
The Stauntons said that they were offered settlements during the course of their lawsuit, but refused them since they would likely have been forced to remain silent about their son’s death as part of a settlement.
“If the occasion of a student’s death won’t change Garden School’s practices, then we need to find a way to convince them to change, even if that means dropping our lawsuit in order to achieve that change through a challenge to Garden School’s private- school accreditation,” Orlaith Staunton said.
The NYSAIS said that it would not consider an accreditation challenge since the Stauntons have an existing lawsuit against the Garden School and that the family must choose between the two challenges.
“The need to protect other students from the fate that befell our family was always more important than a financial recovery,” Ciaran Staunton said.
The Garden School did not respond to a request for comment and the NYSAIS said that it could not comment on an active investigation.