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State suspends operations at AMIkids Pinellas after child suffers brain bleed

A 12-year-old boy ended up in the hospital after police said he was assaulted by a school staffer.
Jarvis Delon West was arrested for child neglect after failing to report an employee at AMI Kids who slammed a boy to the ground, according to police [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has suspended operations at AMIkids Pinellas, a school for at-risk boys, after a staffer was accused of throwing a 12-year-old student to the ground, causing him to suffer a brain bleed.

The leadership team for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice notified the school Thursday that it must cease operations at the close of business Friday, said department spokesperson Amanda Slama.

Pinellas County schools superintendent Mike Grego then terminated the district’s long-held partnership with the nonprofit, said Pinellas school district spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas. The district is working to place 40 students in other schools.

Related: Body-slammed by school staffer, Pinellas boy suffered brain bleed and neglect, police say

The school, located at 6500 102nd Ave. N, had contracted with the juvenile justice department to serve boys ages 11 to 15 since 2014. It took referrals from the Pinellas County School District, parents and child services agents.

Students currently enrolled have two options, Mascareñas said. They can attend Pinellas Secondary School at 8570 66th St. N, which has a similar model to AMIkids. Buses will be provided started Feb. 24, a Monday.

Or they will be offered seats at Disston Academy in Gulfport, or at Clearwater Intermediate School. Bus transportation will not be immediately provided, but Mascareñas said officials are looking into it.

The incident that put the child in the hospital and led to the district’s response took place Feb. 11, according to Pinellas Park police.

After a 12-year-old boy skipped the lunch line, he was sent to another room. There, an employee hoisted him at the waist and slammed him down onto the ground, inflicting a head injury, according to police. The child cried, vomited and lost consciousness, police said. AMIkids’ staffers just watched. They failed to provide medical assistance or alert his mother.

A supervisor, Jarvis Delon West, accompanied the child on a school bus that took him home. But West did not tell the child’s mother what happened.

Related: Admissions halted at AMIkids Pinellas after staffer slammed boy and failed to report it

The mother later took her son to the hospital, police said, where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture, two subdural hematomas and a brain bleed.

West, 28, was arrested Monday on felony charges of failure to report child neglect and neglect of a child resulting in great bodily harm. He was freed later that day after posting $55,000 bail.

The name of the staffer who threw the student to the ground has not been released, but police say they have identified him.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is also investigating the incident.

AMIkids has 22 locations in Florida. The nonprofit has run into issues nationwide. Locally, a director of AMIkids Tampa was arrested in 2012 for head-butting a student. In 2016, Pasco County Schools ended a contract with AMIkids over money issues and concerns that safety needs weren’t being met.

Officials with AMIkids said they’re conducting an internal investigation, but issued a statement Thursday that said its staffers acted wrongly on Feb. 11.

“It appears that protocols and procedures were not adhered to, potentially endangering the health of a young man in our care,” the statement read.

In the statement, AMIkids says it plans to partner with law enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice to review its guidelines in the 10 states where it operates programs.

Times staff writer Romy Ellenbogen contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is the entity that called for suspension of operations at AMIkids Pinellas.