GRAFTON, W.Va. – The parents of a disabled elementary school student have filed a lawsuit against the Taylor County Board of Education, a school principal and several school employers, surrounding claims that their child was “unlawfully restrained” to a chair.
The suit, filed by Justin and Amanda Sharp in Taylor County Circuit Court, alleges that a special education teacher and an aide at Anna Jarvis Elementary School bound their 9-year-old son with a gait belt for 22 minutes, while the teacher ate lunch.
The boy suffers from a number of conditions that cause him to need help and supervision for most tasks, the lawsuit says. He uses a wheelchair or standing device and needs adult help to transfer on and off of his chair or furniture. He also has a very limited vocabulary and cannot speak in sentences, the suit goes on to say.
Due to his special needs, the child was placed on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) by the school system. That IEP did not call for the use of any form of restraint for the boy, attorneys for the plaintiffs point out.
On the September 2021 day in question, the child was in a special needs classroom, some of which was monitored by video cameras, says the suit. According to state code, the cameras are supposed to show the entire classroom and record audio. The camera in this classroom did not have a view of the whole room and was not able to record audio, claims the lawsuit.
Below is what the lawsuit alleges was seen in the video:
- The video shows the special education teacher carry the boy across the classroom and sit him in a chair, before she and the aide wrap the belt around the boy, binding him to the chair.
- The boy immediately began trying to free himself from the belt, pulling on it, tugging it, flipping it and putting the end of it in his mouth. He then rocked the chair back and forth, causing it to bounce up and down and slide across the floor.
- While this was happening, the teacher sat down at a table and ate her lunch and at one point left the room, leaving the child unattended.
- Then, the boy’s assigned one-on-one aide brought another special needs student into the classroom and sat down to do some paperwork, ignoring the boy.
- After about 15 minutes of being tied to the chair, the child scooted the chair out of view of the camera. After several minutes, the first aide moved the boy’s chair back into the camera’s view. This pattern repeated itself once more, ending with the child “hopping up an down furiously,” which caused the chair to “rock and lift up off the floor.”
- A physical therapist is then seen coming into the classroom and appearing to question why the boy was restrained. The belt was then removed.
The teacher also restrained another special needs child, for about 10 minutes, while she ate her lunch, says the suit.
The school’s principal was informed of the incident that day, but the boy’s parents weren’t informed that their son had been restrained until five days after it happened and were given “very few details,” they said.
The West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Federal Programs and Support investigated the incident and, in a February 2022 letter, detailed 12 violations of state law, policy and/or procedure, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges negligence, violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act and reckless infliction of emotional distress against all of the defendants and negligent training and supervision against the board of education. The parents have asked for a jury trial.
You can read the full lawsuit here.
12 News has reached out to the Taylor County Board of Education for comment but has not yet heard back.