The family of a 17-year-old girl who died in the care of a Tennessee organization that helps troubled youth is demanding answers after they said she was "assaulted and battered" by counselors.
The teen, Alegend Jones, was hospitalized on Nov. 16 following an incident at Youth Villages in Bartlett, the group home where she lived. Jones later died at the hospital.
Youth Villages has denied the allegations and said that "many of the statements and comments circulating publicly about this incident are false and inaccurate."
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference that two male counselors from the group home took Jones to the health department for an exam. The teen was allegedly told to undress but she refused to do so in the presence of the two male counselors, Crump told reporters.
He said the two counselors then "body slammed" the teen. Medical personnel at the health department called the police, but Jones was taken back to Youth Villages.
Crump alleged that after she was transported back to the group home, "over a dozen counselors at Youth Village assaulted and battered this teenage child."
In a statement, Youth Villages disputed the allegations.
"There were no abusive or otherwise inappropriate interactions directed toward the young person," the organization said. "The young person was brought to the health department by two female staff and was never alone with male staff or asked to undress in front of male staff."
The organization said that Jones had a "medical emergency" and "staff immediately responded following our protocols for emergency medical intervention." Emergency Medical Services was also called and arrived within minutes, Youth Villages said.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of a child following a medical emergency that occurred at one of our campuses two weeks ago. We care about every young person that we help. We are heartbroken by this event, and our thoughts are with the child’s family in this difficult time," the organization said.
The Bartlett Police Department and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services?are investigating the incident.
Jones had been at the group home for just over two months, her mother, Shona Garner-White,?said at the news conference. Garner-White said she had sought help for her daughter because of mental health issues.
When Jones was 14, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, manic depression and bipolar disorder, her mother said.
"I sent her to Youth Village to get help and now they’re sending my baby back in a casket," she said.
The teen was remembered as a "joy" and someone who was "vibrant." She had dreams of being a nurse and helping people in situations similar to hers, her mother said.
"She made you laugh," Garner-White said. "She was just a bubbly person."
Crump said they are demanding a "thorough and impartial investigation into the events that led to Alegend’s tragic death."
Youth Villages said it is working with all relevant public safety and health authorities and is "fully cooperating with the official investigations."
"Her family deserves answers and justice, and we will continue to work on their behalf to ensure that those responsible for these heinous acts are held accountable," Crump said in a statement.