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Clark County agencies examine death of 7-year-old boy

Reported by: Marissa Mike
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Updated: 5/23/2013 7:09 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) -- For the first time since 2008, Clark County held a special child death review.

At issue is the death of 7-year-old RJ Arrington, whose teachers suspected child abuse and reported it just days before police say RJ was beaten to death by his parents.

Representatives from various county agencies held a series of closed-door meetings to discuss the case.

Child Death Reviews are held monthly by a team consisting of law enforcement agencies, the district attorney's office and a range of social service groups.

But this month was different, there was a series of meetings held only to discuss RJ's case in detail to figure out systemic failures that led to his untimely death.

“I know in my heart that if we could turn back time, that we would, but we can't,” said Lisa Ruiz Lee, director of Clark County Family Services.

Ruiz-Lee says circumstances surrounding RJ's death were so troublesome, she couldn't wait for a standard child death review to take place later this year.

She wanted a more thorough one held as soon as possible to identify systemic problems. The closed-door meetings happened this month.

“In the rj arrington case, we chose to convene a special child death review team to evaluate that case to have an open honest conversation,” Ruiz-Lee said.

Ruiz-Lee brought representatives from the state division of family services, Metro, the district attorney's office, and Clark County school district together to discuss RJ's case.

RJ’s mom and stepdad are behind bars awaiting trial. They are accused of beating RJ to death for not reading the bible and failing to do his homework.

Someone from RJ's school, Roundy Elementary, reported suspected abuse to the county hotline on a Wednesday in November. But, according to Ruiz-Lee, protocol was not followed. RJ died two days later.

“We know there was an error made at the hotline level, that call should have been coded differently and prioritized for a diff cps response,” Ruiz-Lee said.

Social workers did not respond the day of the hotline call. A family services hotline operator fired as a result of the incorrect code.

“It's our obligation to take the tragedies and evaluate them,” Ruiz-Lee said.

The special CDR team concluded more communication was needed between agencies with mandated reporters.

In Clark County, mandated reporters are those required by law to report any signs of child abuse. Like teachers, school staff, and social service workers.

“At the end of the day blame doesn't get you anywhere. blame really doesn't help to facilitate change that may be needed to address systemic issues,” Ruiz-Lee said.
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