School Let Bullying Go Unchecked, Mom Says
SANTA BARBARA (CN) - The bullying of a young boy who wears diapers to school because of bowel problems made him suicidal, his mother claims in court.
Liliana Sanchez Alvarez, on behalf of her son, sued Santa Barbara Unified School District for civil rights violations, negligence and discrimination.
When Alvarez enrolled her son, identified as John Doe, in kindergarten at Roosevelt Elementary School, she allegedly informed school officials that he was born with intestinal problems that left him unable to control his urinary or bowel movements, which has been well-documented by his doctor. Alvarez said she hoped that she would get support from Doe's teachers and the principal.
Unfortunately, the children at the school learned from the school staff that Doe wore diapers and lacked bowel and urinary control, according to the complaint.
"Children began to tease John Doe, laugh at him, make fun of him and physically and emotionally abuse him," the complaint states. "Teachers and staff did not intervene even though they had a duty to do so."
The teasing and harassment allegedly brought Doe home from school crying and distraught. Although the principal promised Alvarez during a meeting on the matter that she would talk to the teachers about the bullying, she never gave Alvarez any indication that she had done so, and the bullying continued, according to the complaint.
During Doe's second year at Roosevelt, the children continued to tease him about his diapers, incontinence and weight, Alvarez said.
"Children tripped John Doe on the playground so that he would fall to the ground," the complaint states. "Children would bounce balls on John Doe's back and chest, push him, and pull his pants down so the other kids could see that he was wearing diapers. Children would shout at him, saying things like, 'Hey fat brown boy, you stink.' John Doe regularly came home crying. He did not want to go back to that school because he was afraid of [the principal], the teachers and the kids that made his life miserable."
Alvarez said she was called to pick up Doe at school one day because he had allegedly soiled his pants and smelled terribly. When she arrived, the school told her that another child had passed gas near Doe and had blamed it on Doe by saying that Doe "pooped his pants," according to the complaint.
When Alvarez complained to the principal about the "extreme abuse" her son faced at school, she was allegedly told to accompany her son to school and stay with him every minute so that the children would not bully him.
Doe threatened to kill himself another time when Alvarez had been called to pick him up because he had soiled himself and was creating a foul smell in the bathroom.
Alvarez said she also met with the district superintendent to no avail.
Rather than being transferred to another school, Doe was merely transferred to a new classroom at Roosevelt, according to the complaint.
Things got worse for Doe in his next year at Roosevelt, Alvarez said.
"John Doe's new teacher instructed the school secretary and medical assistant to call plaintiff and to inform plaintiff that John Doe could not wear cologne because it smelled too strong," the complaint states. "The teacher had placed John Doe in the corner of the room by himself so that his cologne would not spread to other parts of the room.
"That day, John Doe came home crying and put a knife to his throat and said he wanted to kill himself. John Doe became very depressed and expressed suicidal ideations."
Despite another meeting with the principal and promises that things would change, Doe continued to face bullying at school, one day coming home crying and with bruises on his body, according to the complaint.
"John Doe spent several months receiving classes at home because his symptoms had become so great," his mother said.
Alvarez seeks compensatory and treble damages.
She is represented by Matthew Clarke with Christman, Kelley & Clarke.
The school district did return a request for comment.