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Quinten Wood: How a disabled boy’s heartbreaking viral story inspired real legislation

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The bill, officially called the Quinten Douglas Wood Act of 2014, was passed on May 23.

When Valerie Wood-Harber posted a photo album on Imgur last summer about the death of her brother, Quinten, the objective was to get people to call on their representatives to pass laws protecting children like him. 

The Internet not only heeded Wood-Harber’s request, it inspired the Oklahoma state legislature to pass a law aimed at classifying children with disabilities with a higher risk than a “typical” child of the same age.

The bill, officially called the Quinten Douglas Wood Act of 2014, was passed on May 23.

“They are now classified in the same way an infant or small child would be, because physically, they are just as helpless and unable to communicate,” Wood-Harber wrote on Imgur. “The bill also allows Department of Human Services (DHS) to access the child’s school attendance and doctor records during an investigation without a court order, so that if a child is not being taken to the doctor or is not attending school regularly, these can be taken into account when determining if the child is being abused or neglected.”

Quinten’s heartbreaking story began in 2004.

At the time, he was 7 years old and living with his older sister, Valerie. He had Chromosome 9 Ring, a disease that left him unable to speak, walk, or take care of himself. 


 

In 2008, Valerie Wood-Harber returned Quinten to their father after his daily care became a lot to handle. That’s when Quinten’s nightmare began.

His health quickly deteriorated under his father’s care. He stopped eating for a period of time, lost weight, and lived in squalor. His other brother Cameron did all he could to help, but their lives didn’t improve. 

“I told Cameron to hold Quinten, and rock him, run his hands through his hair, that even when medicine can’t make you feel better, hugs and snuggled sometimes do,” Wood-Harber said on Imgur. “So Cameron moved his mattress into the living room, and put it next to the couch where Quinten slept because mattress was too pee stained.”

Shortly after this talk, Quinten was found dead on his father’s couch on Jan. 4, 2013. 

Wood-Harber shared these details in a photo album a year ago, pleading with people to contact their state representatives and tell Quinten’s story.

Wood-Harber started a Change.org petition following the success of her Imgur album, which collected 500,000 digital signatures from people “demanding that our father, the DHS workers who decided not to investigate, and the teachers who saw Quinten coming to school every day filthy, yet did not ever report the neglect, all be held responsible for Quinten’s death.”

In January the petition was formally presented to Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, resulting in stories in The Guardian and Oklahoma’s News 9. A month later, two DHS employees were fired and charged with “willful neglect to perform a duty of public trust.” In March, police charged Wood-Harber’s father with two felony counts of child neglect.

“So, it’s a year later, and so much has been accomplished,” Wood-Harber wrote. 

“I am told daily how I am ‘so strong’ and how proud people are of me for pushing this through, but the honest truth is that … it was YOU, Imgur, that made this possible. I wrote in my original post, that I wanted to make sure that no one would ever forget my brother, and that I never wanted what happened to him to happen to another child … This amazing community of complete strangers came together and helped me accomplish what I could have NEVER done alone.”

Photos via Valerie Wood-Harber/Imgur

Fernando Alfonso III

Fernando Alfonso III

Fernando Alfonso III served as an early Reddit and 4chan reporter and the Daily Dot’s first art director until 2016. He’s gone on to report at Lexington’s Herald-Leader and at the Houston Chronicle.