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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Don’t Try This in Your Class

CHICAGO (CN) - A Catholic high school teacher ridiculed a bipolar student in class, telling his classmates that the boy "is seeing a doctor who is medicating him for his condition, and we all see that is not working," the boy claims in court.

Z.H. sued Providence Catholic High School, the teacher who allegedly ridiculed him, Kathy Rabbers, assistant principal Janlyn Auld, the Joliet Diocesan Board of Education, the Catholic Diocese of Joliet in Illinois, and the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel Order of St. Augustine, in Will County Court.

Z.H. was a student in Rabbers' English class at Providence High in the fall semester of 2011. At or around that time, he was diagnosed as bipolar and ADHD, and his parents informed the school that they wished to discuss the diagnosis with his teachers, according to the complaint.

Shortly afterward, assistant principal Auld called Z to her office, and "relentlessly questioned plaintiff regarding his doctor's name, prognosis, and treatment, and took notes throughout the conversation," according to the complaint.

"As a result of this conversation, plaintiff suffered an immediate panic attack," and "called his mother and asked to be taken home," the complaint states.

Days later, Rabbers told Z in front of the school counselor that she was "'sick of him,' that she 'did not know what to do with him,' and that she 'didn't want him in her class anymore,'" according to the lawsuit.

Z's parents then met with the principal, Father McGrath, who agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement stipulating that information on Z's medical condition would remain private and strictly on a need-to-know basis, the complaint states.

But Z's parents say they decided to transfer their son to another school after attending a parent-teacher night at which Rabbers told them their son was "'a hopeless case,' that he is 'not worth solving,' and that he is 'helpless.'"

Rabbers also allegedly told the parents "that there is no point in telling him to try because 'an F is an F is an F' and that no matter how hard he would try, plaintiff would never pass her class." (44)

Z.H.'s mother later contacted Rabbers asking her to submit her son's grades to finalize his transfer to another school.

Finally, the lawsuit states, two days after he transferred, "plaintiff received three phone calls from former Providence classmates notifying him that defendant Rabbers had, while reading the November 16th email from plaintiff's mother, said aloud to the class, 'Like one lousy book report is going to make a difference to his grade when he has a 19 in my class. [Z.H.'s parents] informed me on Thursday at parent/teacher night that Zak is seeing a doctor who is medicating him for his condition, and we all see that is not working!'"

Z.H. seeks damages for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

He is represented by Lance Northcutt in Chicago.

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