NDSC & NDSS Ethan Saylor Advocacy Update
Ethan Saylor, a 26 year old man with Down syndrome, died tragically on January 12, 2013 while being forcibly removed and restrained by off-duty Frederick County, Maryland police officers at his local movie theater. Ethan and his support staff had just watched “Zero Dark Thirty” and Ethan wanted to watch it a second time, but had not purchased a ticket. The confrontation happened when his support staff went to get the car.
The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) continue to be actively working with the Saylor family to our collective efforts to call on both national and state authorities to investigate the tragic events surrounding Ethan’s death. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the death of Ethan. We have also initiated efforts to assist parents and affiliates in developing relationships with, and providing training to, law enforcement and first responders. Below is an update on several initiatives underway related to our collective efforts in response to Ethan’s tragic and senseless death:
Frederick Forum on Disability Inclusion in Maryland
On October 17, 2013, NDSS, NDSC, and the Saylor Family teamed up to hold the “Frederick Forum on Disability Inclusion” in Maryland. The Forum was an opportunity for the Frederick disability and provider community to discuss pressing issues around disability as well as mobilize the local community in Frederick County to ensure what happened to Ethan never happens to another member of the Down syndrome community again. We were grateful to have representation from the following organizations: F.R.I.E.N.D.S., Maryland Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition (MDAC), Maryland Disability Law Center, Special Olympics, People on the Go, The Freedom Center, Goodwill of Monocacy Valley, Scott Key Center, Service Coordination, Way Station Inc., Abilities Network, The Arc of Frederick County, Community Living, Inc., and ARC of Washington County, MD.
Saylor Family Files a Civil Suit in Maryland
On October 17, 2013 the Saylor family filed a civil suit in Frederick, Maryland against the alleged parties involved in the death of Ethan Saylor. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, names the deputies, the movie theater, the shopping center’s property manager, the sheriff’s office and the county as responsible for Saylor’s death on January 12 and seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. The suit also alleges gross negligence and recklessness explicitly against the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. The Saylor family was not satisfied with the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers involved, the lawsuit is part of their continued effort to hold those responsible accountable for their actions and to find the truth. You can read more about the lawsuit in this Washington Post article.
Governor O’Malley Issues at Executive Order to Establish the Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Established in Maryland
On September 17, Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland issued an executive order establishing a new commission, the Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This Commission will be tasked with evaluating the current training received by people that interact with the disability community and developing and issuing recommendations about the types of statewide training standards the state should adopt to educate individuals in positions of authority-particularly those in public sector positions. This important Commission will be chaired by Dr. Tim Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics. NDSS VP of Advocacy & Affiliate Relations Sara Weir was also appointed to serve on the Commission.
Training Webinar Held on Law Enforcement, First Responders, and People with Intellectual Disabilities
NDSS, NDSC, and Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action (DSAIA) hosted a webinar on September 26, 2013 entitled “Law Enforcement, First Responders, and People with Intellectual Disabilities”. The webinar presenters included Patti Saylor, mother of Ethan Saylor; Sgt. A.D. Paul of the Plano Texas Police Department; and David Whalen, Statewide Project Coordinator, First Responder Disability Awareness Training, Niagara University, New York. Sgt. Paul Plano has built and maintained training for police officers in several jurisdictions in Texas, while David Whalen’s project was recently awarded a $193,270 grant from the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) to develop and conduct statewide disability awareness and sensitivity curriculum and the corresponding training tools for first responders. You can watch the webinar video here.