Teen dies after struggle with staff at Wordsworth Academy in Philadelphia

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A student found dead inside a Philadelphia school for children with behavioral and developmental issues. (WPVI)

A 17-year-old boy died after a struggle involving at least three staff members at Wordsworth Academy in the Wynnefield Heights section of Philadelphia.

Police were called to the building on the 3900 block of Ford Road just before 11 p.m. Thursday.

Officers, including homicide detectives, spent several hours interviewing staff overnight.

According to investigators, EMS was called for an emergency at the academy around 9 p.m. Thursday.

Detectives say faculty searched the student's room for something. After they left, he began barricading the door. Staff members tried to stop him, but the teen started striking them.

Police say during the attempt to gain control, the teen lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at the scene. Sources also say that the teen was placed into a headlock.

Authorities have not ruled this a homicide and are waiting for the medical examiner to see if the teen had any pre-existing conditions.

There were a lot of concerned parents looking for answers on Friday, something they say they haven't been getting.

"I've heard stories like this in the past and when he was referred here, obviously I did my research and there were horror stories from other programs," said a parent, Gwen Timmons.

In a brief statement issued Friday morning, school officials said, "Although we are shocked and saddened by this event, it is an ongoing investigation, and we are unable to comment further at this time."

The Wordsworth Academy provides students with a variety of services. Some, like the student who passed away, live at the school full time.

Some parents say after this, they're pulling their child out as soon as they can.

"I'm mortified. I can't believe that this happened, and this is probably the last day my son is going to be here," said one parent.

But not all parents feel the same. Another mother said the school has been working wonders for her 10-year-old.

"I talked to my son. He's not scared, he doesn't feel threatened. He wants to stay here," that mother said.

Police have not released the name of the teen who died. Sources say he is from central Pennsylvania.

According to its website, Wordsworth Academy services some 2,000 children. It wasn't clear how many live at the facility.

"The mission of Wordsworth is to provide education, behavioral health and child welfare services to children and youth who are experiencing emotional, behavioral and academic challenges so that they are empowered to reach their potential and lead productive, fulfilling lives. Since 1952, Wordsworth's continuum of services has strengthened individuals, families and communities," the website states.
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