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

Teacher of the Year? Probably Not

CHICAGO (CN) - Faced with a noisy classroom, a suburban schoolteacher duct-taped an 11-year-old boy's mouth shut, wrapping his head with tape that left red welts on his face and a bald spot on the back of his head, a mother claims in court.

Princess Dempsey sued Sarah Hicks and Lindop School District 92 in Federal Court.

(The district, in Dempsey's hometown of Broadview, Ill., calls itself Lindop on its home website. It is spelled Lindrop throughout the complaint. Broadview is a town of 7,600 west of Chicago.)

The complaint states: "On February 27, 2012, Johnathen Dempsey, an 11-year-old student at Lindrop School, was in a reading lab with approximately 40 other students from a combined two classes. Many of the students in the class, including Johnathen, were talking amongst themselves.

"Despite the large number of students talking, Johnathen's teacher, Sarah Hicks, singled out Johnathen and told him to shut up. Soon after, another child asked Johnathen a question and Johnathen in turn answered it.

"Without any discussion or warning, Ms. Hicks proceeded to place an index card on Johnathen's mouth and wrap thick, heavy, maintenance grade duct tape all the way around his head, taping and forcing his mouth shut.

"She then instructed him to keep the tape on and not to take it off until she gave him permission.

"Johnathen was forced to remain in the classroom, in front of two classes full of his peers, with duct tape covering his mouth and head, for approximately 45 minutes. The duct tape prevented him from breathing through his mouth or speaking during this entire period.

"Additionally, while Johnathen was duct taped, other students in the classroom continued to talk amongst themselves, yet received no reprimands or punishments.

"After approximately 45 minutes had passed, Ms. Hicks noticed that Johnathen had been crying, and told two other students to take him to the bathroom to remove the tape.

"Removing the tape caused Johnathen significant pain, pulled a chunk of hair out of the back of his head, and left red welts on his face.

"When Johnathen returned from the bathroom, Ms. Hicks continued class as usual.

"After Johnathen returned home after a full day of school, his mother Princess Dempsey observed the red welts on Johnathen's face and the missing chunk of hair.

"The actions of Sarah Hicks caused him to have a chunk of hair pulled out of his head and suffer red welts on his face and discomfort that lasted for a week. After the incident, Johnathen was left with a bald spot and his face appeared as though it had been whipped."

Johnathen's mother adds: "Prior to the incident, Johnathen was very outgoing and could make friends with anyone. He would sing all the time and hoped to one day become pop star.

"Since the incident, however, Johnathen has become much more reserved, not wanting to leave the house and only spending time with his older brothers. Because other students began teasing Johnathen as a result of the duct tape and his bald spot, he has needed his mother to walk him to school.

"As a direct and proximate cause of the defendant Sarah Hicks' conduct, Johnathen suffered numerous emotional disturbances, including but not limited to sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, distressing dreams, flashbacks, frightening thoughts, and depressions."

Dempsey seeks damages for excessive force, emotional distress, battery, and assault.

She is represented by Standish Willis.

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