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Parents Sue School Over Forced Shower

FORT WORTH (CN) - Parents claim in court that employees at a Weatherford elementary school forced their 8-year-old son to strip, then violently washed and berated him for being "smelly" and "dirty."

Amber and Michael Tilley sued the Peaster Independent School District, Peaster Elementary School employee Julie West and school nurse Debbie Van Rite, in Federal Court.

The Tilleys say their three children have been the target of harassment and retaliation by district employees due to their contentious history of requesting appropriate education for their oldest son.

The complaint states that West berated and harassed the 8-year-old, third-grade younger brothers on Nov. 15.

The parents claim West told the child he "smelled badly, was dirty and that he had bad hygiene," and took him to see Van Rite.

They both told the child to disrobe and take a shower in their presence and while another student was in the nurse's office, the parents say.

"While P.T. objecting to completely disrobing and taking a shower, defendants West and Van Rite forced P.T. to remove his clothing and began violently washing his body with a washcloth, scrubbing him over a large portion of his body, stuck cotton balls in his ears, all while ridiculing and harassing him about being 'dirty,'" the complaint states.

"P.T. was then forced to apply deodorant at the insistence of defendant West and Van Rite, who then told P.T. 'if you ever come to school dirty again[,] we will strip you buck naked and throw you in the shower and scrub you down.'"

The parents claim the defendant then warned their child that he and his backpack would be sprayed every morning so he would not smell.

When he asked what they were going to spray him with, the defendants said, "it will kill you," according to the complaint.

The parents say they filed a complaint of assault and battery with the Parker County Sheriff's Office the next day after noticing their "visibly and severely distraught" child.

No charges were filed, but the parents say school employees retaliated against the child for their the police report by excluding him from activities that other students participated in.

"These events have caused severe emotional trauma to P.T., to the extent that he is now in therapy and is exhibiting OCD-type behaviors, such as taking numerous baths a day, constantly cleaning his ears, and spraying himself with large amounts of cologne," the complaint states. "P.T. has developed a phobia of getting physically too close to people, out of fear they will say he is dirty or smells, and is traumatized by attending school and continuing to be victimized."

The Tilleys seek actual and punitive damages and an injunction for invasion of privacy, illegal search and seizure, retaliation, battery, false imprisonment, child neglect, assault, negligent hiring/supervision and intentional and negligent infliction of severe mental distress. They are represented by Jason Bach in Austin.

Weatherford is 30 miles west of Fort Worth.

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