NEW ORLEANS (CN) – An elementary school’s “brutal and unconstitutional policy” of “intrusive arrests and seizures” of little kids left a first-grader terrified of school, afraid that “grown-ups with guns may hurt him again,” the black child’s parents say in a federal class action. The parents say their first-grade son, and other kids, “are unlawfully seized, arrested, handcuffed, shackled, and chained to furniture for very minor violations of school rules.”
Suing on behalf of his son, J.W., Sebastian Weston claims the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education allowed the Recovery School District and its administrators and officers to enforce the “brutal” and unreasonable policies.
Defendants include Sarah T. Reed Elementary School Principal Daphyne [sic] Burnett, School Police Officer Willis, and Superintendent Paul Vallas.
Weston says his son was handcuffed and shackled to a chair at Reed Elementary in New Orleans on May 4, after he failed to follow his teacher’s directions.
Two days later, J.W. was handcuffed and shackled by another security officer, identified as defendant Willis, after arguing with another student in the cafeteria, the dad says.
Weston said the experience has transformed the formerly “outgoing 6-year-old to a fearful and withdrawn child who has difficulty sleeping through the night.”
As a result of the trauma, J.W. “is currently under the care of a mental health professional and now lives with ongoing trauma and severe emotional distress.”
Weston seeks declaratory judgment, an injunction, and punitive damages for unlawful arrest, unreasonable and intrusive seizure, violation of the Fourth Amendment, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment.
After the lawsuit was filed, Recovery School District spokesman Ken Jones said in a statement that the district investigated, and concluded that it “was an isolated incident.”
“The student was not arrested and the employee involved was terminated,” the district told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Jones did not identify which security officer was fired or provide any other additional details, saying the district does not comment on pending litigation.Weston is represented by Sheila Bedi and Poonam Juneja with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Carol Kolinchak with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, both of New Orleans.