Aiken parent alleges "inhumane treatment" of autistic son, files lawsuit against school district
Augusta Chronicle - 3/3/2020
Mar. 3--A lawsuit was filed against Chukker Creek Elementary School and the Aiken County School District alleging "inhumane treatment" of an autistic student at the school.
According to a release from Shaundra Mims' attorney, Tyler D. Bailey of Columbia, she filed the lawsuit after discovering her 9-year-old son had been secluded by his teachers in a room that resembled "a prison cell" without her knowledge.
"We have filed this lawsuit to hold the defendants accountable for their inexcusable treatment of (the boy). Children should never be secluded and locked away alone in a prison cell like room, and especially not by their teachers, individuals trusted to care for them," Bailey said in the release.
The Aiken County School District said in a statement late Monday afternoon it had not received a copy of the lawsuit and could not address the specific concerns of the allegation due to federal protection laws . It said the allegation has been investigated by authorities and the school district and nothing wrong was done.
"Aiken County Public Schools (ACPSD) does not promote the use of seclusion in our district and there are no spaces currently being used for the purpose of seclusionary time out in ACPSD," according to the statement.
The lawsuit alleges the school was "negligent and reckless in its use of seclusion and restraint to silence, detain, isolate and punish" the boy and other students under its care. It also alleges the school used "highly discredited techniques" and repeatedly restrained and secluded the boy and other unsuspecting school students countless of times.
"(The boy) was subject to treatment more in tune with conduct used to control prisoners than elementary schools students," Bailey said in the release. "The defendants have ignored their sacred duties as educators, and we intend to hold them accountable for their conduct and their betrayal of public trust."
According to the lawsuit, Mims expressed concerns about her son's grades at the beginning of the school year to the school and requested her son be assigned a new teacher that could assist him with schoolwork. Around Nov. 18, assistant principal Brandon Abbott allegedly told Mims they were able to implement a plan for her son to go to an "alternate location" to complete his work and when he needed a few minutes to calm himself down.
Around Feb. 21, the boy's grandmother went to the school to sit with the boy and help him with schoolwork. According to the lawsuit, she was escorted by a school teacher to a "time out room" where she found the boy laying on the ground and shaking.
According to the lawsuit, the room appeared to be a "seclusion room" that resembled a prison cell. The room had a small window that was covered.
The lawsuit accused the school of not notifying Mims about her son being the subject of seclusion on numerous occasions. It also states that the boy was involuntarily confined to the room by the defendants and prevented from leaving.
The lawsuit alleges the boy suffered and will suffer permanent emotional distress, humiliation, mental anguish, indignity, loss of pleasures and enjoyment of life which will require psychological and psychiatric medical care and treatment.
In a Facebook post dated Feb. 21, the school said it was aware of a social media post gaining traction regarding a student's "behavioral incident" there.
The school cited federals laws prohibiting the release of the student's information and specific details about the incident. According to the Facebook post, the incident was investigated by the school, school district and local law enforcement, but no "wrongful action" from the teacher or the education aide was found.
"We have made multiple attempts to reach out to the parent/guardian. Those attempts have been unsuccessful to date. Until this situation is resolved, our school will remain under the surveillance of law enforcement due to the threatening nature of the posts and comments on social media aimed at our school and personnel," the post reads.
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