Parents of Sunnyside child who died of sepsis challenge Jackson Heights school’s accreditation

Photo courtesy of Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton

The parents of Rory Staunton, a 12-year-old Garden School student who died from septic shock after falling at his gym and getting a cut five years ago, will challenge the Jackson Heights private school’s accreditation.

Staunton, a Sunnyside resident, took a fall during gym class on March 27, 2012, after diving for a basketball. The wound reopened the next day. Though Staunton’s gym teacher gave him bandages, his wound was not cleaned and he was not told to go to the nurse.

The youngster woke up the next day with pain in his leg and after visits to his doctor and NYU Langone Hospital, several people failed to detect that he had sepsis. He died on April 1, 2012, from the bacterial infection.

His mother and father, Orlaith and Ciaran Staunton, started the Rory Staunton Foundation to spread awareness of the disease. In 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Rory’s Regulations, making New York the first state in the country to require that hospitals have protocols to quickly screen and treat patients who may have sepsis.

On June 12 of this year, the Staunton family announced they would be challenging the Garden School’s accreditation in court. The private school, founded in 1923, is not regulated by the U.S. or New York State Departments of Education. Instead, it is regulated by the nonprofit New York Association of Independent Schools (NYAIS).

Though the family had an open lawsuit against the school and was offered several settlements, NYAIS said they would not consider the accreditation challenge if Staunton’s parents pursued the lawsuit. They have chosen to drop it and pursue the challenge instead.

“If the occasion of a student’s death won’t change Garden School’s practices, then we need to find a way to convince them to change – even if that means dropping our lawsuit in order to achieve that change through a challenge to Garden School’s private school accreditation,” Orlaith Staunton said in a statement. “We have also been in contact with New York State Department of Education. Our son’s experience and our pain and sorrow should never be experienced by another family.” 

If they accepted the settlements, the family said, they would be barred about speaking out against the school. Thomas Moore, the attorney representing the family in court, said the Garden School tried covering up its failure to properly treat its student.

“It became obvious during the pretrial testimony that the school was grossly negligent in its treatment of Rory,” Moore said. “This was followed by a deliberate and orchestrated effort to cover up the circumstances of Rory’s fall. Surely, parents who entrust, in part, the education and nurturing of their children to others are entitled to better.”

Ciaran Staunton said the family decided to drop the pending lawsuit and pursue the accreditation challenge because “the need to protect other students from the fate that befell our family was always more important than a financial recovery.”

Representatives from the Garden School did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

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