Parents claim son was injured by playing 'choking game' in Willis ISD classroom

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

HOUSTON - Parents of a special needs child are upset after their son blacked out after playing a game known as the "choking game."

The incident happened at Brabham Middle School on Thursday.

"It's dangerous. That game is dangerous. Kids die every day from this," parent Paul Scott said.

Scott said he is thankful his 11-year-old son, Andy, is alive.

"He got up immediately, passed out, fell to the ground, busted his lip and his head," said Scott. "That's just heartbreaking."

What is the choking game?

The choking game is a game popular among pre-teens and teens. The premise of the game is that people briefly strangle themselves, temporarily blocking blood flow to the brain, causing a "blackout," all to get a "rush of euphoria" once consciousness is regained. It has been around for decades. It is also known as the fainting game and the blackout game.

Is is dangerous?

Yes. Restricting blood supply to the brain can be deadly. One case in Willis, Texas, is a sixth-grade student was brought to the hospital by his parents after being put in a choke hold.

"All of a sudden everything stopped around me. My body shut down and then everything started getting blurry and then it turned black," said Andy.

What Andy described is a common symptom of limiting blood supply to the brain. Andy said the other child did not stop choking him until another classmate told him to stop.

Why are children playing the game?

"This is a dangerous game that apparently isn't the first time they've done this," said special education advocate Louis Geigerman.

Peer pressure may be a factor.

"He asked me again, and I think I said, 'no,'" said Andy.

Andy said the student had asked him three times if he wanted to play.

The school, however, said an investigation was conducted and that the participation was mutual. Andy's parents disagree.

What can parents, teachers and schools do?

Communicate. Talk to children and students and to parents and school officials.

"Instruct kids that this is dangerous -- don't do it," said Geigerman. "You've got adolescent minds that come up with things that may be a great idea ... We need to have adults tell them that that's not a great idea."

The Willis ISD issued this statement:

"The safety of all students is our top priority. We did have an incident on a campus after the bell rang to dismiss to buses last week. Two students mutually engaged in what is known as the choking game.The staff immediately responded to the situation, the nurse evaluated the student and determined that all vital signs were normal; the student was alert, responsive and ambulatory. The SRO (school resource officer) spoke with both students involved and administrators monitored the student until parents could pick up the child. All safety measures necessary were taken. Discipline was assigned per the Willis ISD Student Code of Conduct. The student body at the campus was warned about the dangers of this activity and that further incidents would not be tolerated."

The Scott family said they were disappointed that they were not notified as soon as the event happened, saying they found out only after one of their kids got home from the bus and said their sibling never made it on.

"We thought our child went missing," Betty Scott, Andy's mother. "We had no idea what had happened and my husband called the school to find out where my child was."

The school maintains it called as soon as possible. Later, parents said, the school called after the child had been to the nurse and was sitting in the assistant principal's office.

The parents took Andy to the hospital, filed a report with the Montgomery Constable Precinct 1, filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Education and confided in special education advocate Louis Geigerman.

"Supervision. There needs to be eyes on kids. That's just simple and they didn't do that," said Geigerman.

The Scott family said luckily Andy is OK, but urges the district to be more considerate of needs for children with special needs, saying that combining regular and special ed students can be concerning.

"My son has special needs. He's a smart kid, but he doesn't always know what is going on, while regular kids do," said Scott.

They said this situation could have been much worse, now the Scott family is calling on the district to act.

"I want to see them do something about this," said Scott.

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