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California Department of Social Services Issues Citations Against North County Preschool Where Toddler Died Last Month

October 12, 2011 Press Releases

SAN DIEGO (October 12, 2011) – Following a two month-long state investigation, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed that three-year-old Tyler Howell died Aug. 8 as a result of choking on a pushpin at the Oceanside Montessori School.

Additionally, the California Department of Social Services has found that the school violated three rules which played a key role in the toddler’s tragic death.   According to the family’s attorney, David S. Casey, Jr., “both the autopsy reports and rule violations by the preschool confirm the responsibility of the pre-school, which failed to maintain an appropriate environment for young children, leading to Tyler’s needless and tragic death.  While the family was initially supportive of the school, these new findings have been very disturbing for them,” Casey added. “We are currently assessing their legal options.”

According to the autopsy report released by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office, a teacher at the school reportedly heard the child gasping at 12:55 p.m. Aug. 8.  School staff members immediately called 911, but rescuers could not revive the boy, and he was pronounced dead at Tri-City Medical Center shortly thereafter. The autopsy confirmed that the youngster died as the result of accidental asphyxia due to airway obstruction by a pushpin.

Casey said that following the incident, officials with the California Department of Social Services launched a routine investigation, which resulted in three citations and a fine for failure to provide a safe environment for students. According to the document released last week, investigators with the Department of Social Services revealed that the child  “was able to ingest a pushpin which the facility was utilizing to secure artwork and similar items.”  Specific citations were issued for violating care and supervisory rules, violating rules that require supplies to be kept in a storage space that isn’t used for other purposes, and for failing to provide to safe, healthful and comfortable accommodations, furnishings and equipment.

“Pushpins are a known hazard of children and should not have been accessible to toddlers,” Casey said. Most importantly, “this has been a devastating tragedy for the Howell family.  Their hope is that every preschool in the country will take note, and ban potentially lethal pushpins on their premises so that a tragedy similar to Tyler’s will not occur again.”

About Casey Gerry
Celebrating more than 60 years in San Diego, Casey Gerry was established in 1947, and is the oldest plaintiffs’ law firm in San Diego. The firm’s 12 attorneys practice in numerous areas, including asbestos, serious personal injury, product liability and pharmaceutical litigation. Located in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood of San Diego, the firm also has a satellite office in Carlsbad, Calif. For more information, call (619) 238-1811 or visit