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Columbia, MO: Lawsuit alleges elem student victim of inappropriate restrain/seclusion use

July 6, 2019, Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune: Parent sues Columbia schools over student kept in isolation A kindergartner at Beulah Ralph Elementary School was kept alone in a room at the school for hours when he misbehaved in the 2016-17 school year, a lawsuit alleges. Named only as R.W. in the lawsuit filed by his mother, whose name is given only as H.W. in the legal documents, the case alleges the Columbia Public Schools, now-retired Principal Tim Majerus and kindergarten teacher Theresa Reinkemeyer failed to heed warnings about the boy’s behavior and anger issues and refused to consider him for evaluation for special education programs. The boy has now relocated to another district and has been diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, filings in the case state. He continues to have some emotional difficulties, but is no longer isolated in a room when he misbehaves, attorney Andy Hirth, who represents the family, wrote. … The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunction prohibiting further isolation and physical restraints of students. The district’s answer denies many of the claims in the lawsuit, including that Majerus didn’t respond to an email from the boy’s mother about his behavior issues, that he recommended psychotropic drugs for the boy and discouraged her from pursuing a special education evaluation. The school district’s attorney admits in the answer that resources including the “calm down” room were used in response to the boy’s behavior. … The lawsuit alleges false imprisonment for isolating the boy in the calm down room contrary to school district policy prohibiting isolation or physical restraint as punishment. It alleges battery for numerous times the boy was lifted and carried, though the policy again prohibits physical restraint as a form of punishment. Finally, it alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress…. “Schools are not using appropriate alternatives” to isolation, Hager said. He said the isolation doesn’t reduce a student’s negative behavior. “They typically don’t calm down,” Hager said. “This is not something that should be used to manage behavior.”… She said students with disabilities and minority students both are subjected to disproportionate isolation room assignment. “I think it’s used because staff is not trained and they don’t have the staff they need,” Wakefield said…. “It would be really important for the school board to investigate every building and determine how student behaviors are being addressed in relation to the rooms that have locking hardware on them,” Wakefield said….
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