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Mom Says School Principal Doesn’t Get It

BROOKLYN (CN) - A mother sued the New York City schools, claiming her little girl cannot wear her elementary school uniform because she has obsessive compulsive disorder about her clothes.

Rosemary Powell sued the New York City Department of Education, P.S. Elementary School 290 and its principal Mieasia Harris, on behalf of her daughter, H.H., in Federal Court.

Powell claims her daughter has suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder since she was two. The girl's OCD includes "sensory and obsessive rituals relating to her clothing," according to the lawsuit.

H.H. enrolled in P.S. 290 in September 2011, when Harris was its principal. On the first day of school, Harris told parents that kindergarten students had to wear the P.S. 290 uniform, of khaki bottoms and green shirts.

But H.H. refused to wear them. Powell claims that her daughter's OCD made her "physically unable to wear the uniform."

Powell claims that Harris then "singled out H.H. for failing to wear her uniform to school," removed her from class to reprimand her, and "embarrassed H.H. by meeting her at the bus stop in the morning to ask, in front of the other students, why she wasn't wearing the uniform."

This made her daughter "embarrassed and ashamed," Powell says in the lawsuit. She claims her daughter "repeatedly came home crying about being yelled at by defendant Harris over the uniform".

Powell says she asked for a meeting with Harris, to which the principal demanded she bring the 5-year-old girl. At the meeting, Powell says, she explained her daughter's disability, to which Harris replied, "If you made your daughter wear her uniform, we would not need this meeting."

Powell says she "reasonably requested" that Harris complain to her if she had problems with her daughter, "instead of reprimanding H.H. on a daily basis."

But Harris said that if the girl could not wear the uniform, she would have to be transferred "to a more appropriate school," according to the complaint.

Powell claims P.S. 290 had an exemption form, by which parents could request exemption from the uniform policy, but that Harris "concealed the exemption option" from her.

At a second meeting, Powell says, she provided Harris with medical documentation about her daughter's OCD, but Harris refused again to accommodate her and "threatened to remove H.H. from P.S. 290."

Powell claims Harris continued to harass her daughter, shaking a finger in her face and telling her, "You better wear your uniform tomorrow."

Harris kicked H.H. out of the school's Girl Scouts program for not wearing her uniform, the mom says. In fact, Harris killed the entire Girl Scouts program, which harmed H.H., as parents knew the action was related to H.H.'s disability, the mom says.

She seeks an injunction, costs and attorney's fees and damages for discrimination, violations of her daughter's civil rights, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

She is represented by Brittany Weiner, with Imbesi Christensen.

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