Ebonie Baltimore got a call on March 1 from the group home where her nephew, Xavier Hernandez, lived. Something had happened to Hernandez at school, the caller said, and he’d been taken to the emergency room.
When Baltimore and several other family members got to John Peter Smith Hospital, they were led to a private room. Baltimore knew something was wrong when hospital workers came in. Some were in tears, she said. Baltimore’s mother, Joyce Baltimore, asked the lead doctor to give her some good news.
“There’s no good news,” the doctor said.
Hernandez was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after noon that day, according to records from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. He was 21. Medical examiners haven’t yet determined his cause and manner of death.
Hernandez, who had autism, went to Boulevard Heights, a school in the Fort Worth district for disabled students. Teachers at Boulevard Heights restrained Hernandez earlier on the day he died, a district spokesman confirmed. An attorney with Disability Rights Texas, a Dallas-based disability rights group, said the organization is investigating reports that those restraints were improper and unnecessary.
Ebonie Baltimore said the district has refused to give her family any information about what happened in the last hours of her nephew’s life.
“I need to know what happened to him,” Baltimore said. “We deserve to know.”
Disability Rights Texas is also investigating the restraint of another Boulevard Heights student, fourth-grader Toni Crenshaw, in an incident that was caught on video in May. The video had been circulating on social media before someone called it to the attention of Toni’s mother, Sandra Crosby.
The incidents at Boulevard Heights follow a report released by Disability Rights Texas in December that says school districts across Texas use physical restraints against disabled students far more often than their peers. Disability rights advocates, parents of disabled students and some in Congress want to see stricter limits placed on when and how schools are allowed to restrain students.
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