For $1 million, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has settled a lawsuit filed by the parents of a teenage girl who hanged herself at juvenile hall.
The lawsuit asserted that staff members at the Girls Rehabilitation Facility were poorly trained in mental health issues and failed to monitor Rosemary Summers, 16, even though it was known that she was threatening suicide.
She died at a local hospital four days after hanging herself with a bedsheet.
The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court by Solana Beach attorney Gerald Singleton on behalf of Summers’ mother, Cheyenne Chanterelle, and her father, Arthur Summers. The supervisors voted 5-0 in closed session this week to settle the lawsuit.
Michele Clock, a county spokesman, said that improvements in training and staffing have been made, or are in the process of being made, “to prevent a tragedy like this from ever occurring again.”
“Rosemary Summers’ death was the first suicide by a juvenile in county probation custody in 32 years,” Clock said. “Providing a safe environment for youth in custody is the highest priority for the Probation Department and their staff.”
According to court documents, the teenager had told county employees of her desire to kill herself, once passing a note reading, “I feel like I want to hurt myself. I just wanna go to sleep and not wake up.”
Summers had been sent to juvenile hall after violating the terms of probation by attending a rally on behalf of Trayvon Martin, a black youth killed in a controversial shooting in Florida, without telling her probation officer.
She had become a ward of the court at age 14 after instances of public intoxication and defying authority.
Summers was diagnosed as suffering from depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and repeated instances of self-mutilating behavior, according to court documents.
She was prescribed mood-altering drugs, which, the family’s attorney asserted, may have sent her into a deeper state of depression and thoughts of suicide.
The night that she committed suicide, Summers had made it difficult for juvenile hall staff to see into her room or open the door.
An internal review by the probation department, which runs the facility, details confusion and the inability of staff for several minutes to find a knife or pair of scissors able to cut the bedsheet.
Summers was rushed to a local hospital. Four days later her family chose to take her off life support.
In the hours before she hanged herself, Summers had had a dispute with other girls at the facility that led them to remove her from a leadership position, according to court documents.
In a memorial page set up by her mother, Summers is remembered as “one of the brightest spirits this world has ever known. She touched so many lives in her short years here on earth.”