School, DCFS stonewall on blind girl's death

School and child welfare officials refused to explain today why a malnourished 13-year-old girl beaten to death on Friday was allowed to remain in the care of her mother and stepfather.

The girl, Shavon Miles, was whipped with an extension cord and bludgeoned with a 2-by-4 at her South Side home.  Lynessia Hiles-Sloan, her mother, and Gabriel Sloan, her stepfather, were charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the case.

Shavon weighed just 73 pounds when she was killed -- about 50 pounds less than average for her age. She had  liver damage, small, circular burn marks on her skin, and her body showed evidence of old head injuries.

Chicago Public Schools officials would not discuss whether anyone at Shavon's school noticed that she was severely underweight or reported their concerns to the state Department of Child and Family Services.

Educators are legally required to report suspected abuse.

Mike Vaughn, a spokesman for the Chicago Public Schools, said confidentiality issues prevented him from speaking about the case.

Neighbors said Shavon attended McKay  Elementary.
Dawn Prather-Hawk, the principal there, said information regarding Shavon was unavailable to her. She then demanded that a Daily News reporter leave the building.

Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Kendall Marlowe said the agency had received three complaints regarding Shavon.

In 1994, the Department of Children and Family Services removed Shavon and her twin brother from the custody of their mother and biological father.

Last year, DCFS received a complaint alleging an unknown perpetrator had abused Shavon.
 
And earlier this year, a complaint against Sloan and Hiles-Sloan had been filed alleging medical neglect.

Marlowe refused to provide additional information on  those complaints, including the type of abuse alleged, whether the department found evidence of abuse, and why Shavon remained in the custody of her mother and stepfather afterward.

"I want this agency to be as transparent as it can be," said Marlowe. "Sometimes that's going to show that we were in situations where we should have intervened."

Marlowe said he was legally barred from discussing the cases involving Shavon by the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.

In fact the law allows DCFS to disclose information about abuse cases when a child has died, as long as releasing details would not be contrary to the interests of the victim's siblings.

Richard Gelles, a child-welfare expert at the University of Pennsylvania, said he's been advocating greater transparency at agencies like DCFS.

In Philadelphia, giving the public greater access to child welfare case documents improved accountability.

"That might end the practice of burying mistakes," he said.

- Daily News staff writer Kate Gardiner contributed to this report

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