One year after the death of 14-year-old Trevyan Rowe, an investigation revealed discrepancies from the Rochester School District and a lack of proper care and attention as he likely suffered “an untreated mental health disorder” — despite escalating warning signs and suicide threats from the teen.
A joint investigation from the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Education Department released Friday highlighted procedural gaps that could have potentially prevented his death.
Rowe got on the bus to go to James P.B. Duffy School No. 12 in Rochester on March 8, 2018 — but after getting off the bus, he never went inside the school.
Three days later, Rowe’s body was found in the Genesee River nearby.
After a nearly year-long investigation, it was revealed that the school district had “potentially inadequate and/or delayed services for mental health treatment” leading up to his death. Additionally, “an overly narrow application of behavioral intervention plans” were found, in addition to a constant lack of reports when “behavior crises occur.”
Although around the time of his disappearance it was speculated — and in some cases even reported — that Rowe suffered from autism, the investigation revealed he had never been medically diagnosed as such, and likely rather had “an untreated mental health disorder.”
The school ignored these warning signs, the investigation suggests, and he likely needed more care than the school district provided.
Rowe, who had recently transferred from a school in Texas, was not provided special education services until a month after he transferred to RCSD at the end of third grade on April 13, 2013, the report said. At his previous schools in Arkansas and Texas, however, he attended as a special needs student.
As a student at RCSD for five years, Rowe “exhibited increasingly problematic behaviors and suicidal ideations” — and “experienced traumatic events” in his past. He was not given counseling for four years, however.
The investigations say that the school may have had “misunderstandings of disability classifications” — and did not update his status from having a learning disability to “emotionally disturbed” despite warning signs.
Rowe would wander away from classes if he became overwhelmed and would become confused during fire drills. The Mobile Crisis Team at Strong Memorial Hospital called him three times over a series of almost four years.
By fifth grade, Rowe was seen “writing suicidal statements in his school notebooks” and would sometimes “raise his hand to ask off-topic questions about attempting to kill himself during class lectures.”
Despite school staff and social workers being aware of Rowe’s mental health troubles, he was only recommended to have counseling outside school — rather than in-school.
When given another evaluation for the coming year’s Individualized Education Program in May 2017, Rowe was found to score “clinically significant” for his anxiety and depression. Despite the finding, Rowe was not offered in-school counseling until the 2017-2018 school year.
After the school year began in the fall, Rowe become upset and threaten to run between buses to kill himself — and in some cases, reportedly attempted to do so. He was escorted back into the building by the safety officer at the school and was sent home after he denied attempting to kill himself to the social worker. The school would not take action to follow up on this incident, although similar episodes continued to occur throughout the school year.
Rochester School district also had lax attendance documentation standards for staff — and allowed records to be submitted “days, weeks, and sometimes even months” after a class occurred, and did not immediately notify parents of unexcused absences from students, according to the report. Discrepancies in attendance documentation potentially allowed “students to fall between the cracks.”
The school environment was said to be “chaotic,” and safety procedures during admission, dismissal, and in emergency situations for students who may require more attention like Rowe were lacking.
On the day of his disappearance, March 8, 2018, Rowe walked off the bus in the wrong direction at 7:37 a.m., past the school.
The bus driver, who was a substitute, was not made aware of prior incidents involving Rowe — and according to the report, did not see him go away from the school. Teachers standing near or inside the building who were supposed to be on bus duty were seen rarely facing the buses and talking among themselves — and therefore did not see Rowe walk off the bus and away from the school.
Despite never entering the school, Rowe was mistakenly marked “present” for his first class. Even if he was marked with an unexcused absence, however, the report said a call to his parents would not have been scheduled until 11 a.m. — three hours after a 911 call reported him standing on a “non-pedestrian bridge above the Genesee River.” No one was seen on the bridge when police arrived, however, and the call was cleared.
During his second class, Rowe was marked “absent,” but the school district took no action to notify his parents. His family had no idea he was missing until he failed to get off the bus after the school day had ended — nearly eight hours after he wandered off the bus, according to the report.
Despite Rowe already having been unaccounted for nearly eight hours, the school district spent two hours attempting to determine if he had boarded the bus or attended any classes — and did not call police until 5:15 p.m.
Other staff from the school who were in meetings the day of Rowe’s disappearance did not immediately contact the school. When notifying the district of his disappearance, the Director of Safety and Security included “three noteworthy incidents” from the district that day — and put Rowe’s disappearance third on the list.
“There is a missing School #12 student who rode the bus to school, but didn’t come into the school. This evening it was reported that the student had lost his phone and made a comment if he didn’t find it, he was going to kill himself. The police and the parents were working with the school administrators on this investigation,” the message read.
The District’s Safety and Security Department officials were not dispatched until the next morning to help police — and many staff of Rowe’s school and the district only reported finding out of his disappearance by seeing it on the news.
Officials from the District’s Safety and Security Department did assist in the investigation, however, until Rowe’s body was found three days later on March 11.
The report details a number of incidents describing further warning signs from Rowe’s escalating behavior and a need for care from the school — and a lack of proper services for students with special needs. The report also includes more details of lax attendance reporting and the transportation system for students.
In publishing the investigation, the NYSAG and NYSED said it can identify ways school districts “can attempt to prevent or reduce the risk of tragedies like Trevyan’s death from happening in the future.
“One recommendation is for RCSD to partner with a community mental health agency to provide extensive training on the warning signs of depression, suicide and other mental health problems, and focus the training on ways for all school personnel to learn to recognize these signs and provide the necessary and appropriate referrals and/ or services in order to prevent a tragedy like this ever occurring again,” the report said.
The school district released a statement following the report’s release.
“The death of Trevyan Rowe continues to have a profound impact on all of us, and we will always keep him and his family in our thoughts and prayers,” the district said in a statement obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle.