Five families are seeking millions in a lawsuit against Longview School District in Washington for allegedly putting their kids in an isolation booth at Mint Valley Elementary School.
Roger Davidheiser, a lawyer representing the five families, said in his opening argument in court on Monday that the district employees robbed the children of their constitutional rights by placing them in an isolation booth. He added that it will require millions of dollars to make this right.
The public first found out about the isolation booth at Mint Valley Elementary School on Nov. 26, 2012, when Ana Bates posted photos of the booth on Facebook. She said her son informed her that school officials were placing students in this booth for normal things that all kids do.
The school’s principal sent a letter home to the parents the next day, letting them know that the booth was only for students who have individualized education plans and whose parents had given consent. The purpose of the booth was to calm down students who had violent outbursts.
There was still an uproar over the booth, so it was removed six days later.
Candace Dawson, a plaintiff in the case, has a son who was placed in the isolation chamber several times at Mint Valley Elementary School from 2009 to 2010. He was allegedly sent to the isolation chamber for the first time in the fourth grade over a cupcake incident. He got upset after his teacher threw away his lunch because he made a mess on his face with a birthday cupcake.
Kevin and Cecilia Wilson, two other plaintiffs in the case, have a son who was put in the isolation chamber after he didn’t stay quiet when he was sent to a special education room. A teacher allegedly held the boy down on his stomach until he said he would stand up with his back against the wall before closing the door.
Both of these children were general education students and placed in the isolation booth without parental consent.
In the lawsuit, the parents claim the isolation booth aggravated their children’s existing conditions and they were deeply traumatized by the events. The Wilsons’ son was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder 2013 and isn’t going to school right now. Dawson’s son continues to be treated for anxiety and distrust issues.
Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Brandon Bastin, Candi Landis and Tessa Green. They said they noticed a change in their children’s behavior after the incident and they will contact a psychologist and economist to determine how much their children lost as a result of being placed in the isolation booth.
According to a state law adopted in 2007, isolation and seclusion are only permitted if a student is an immediate danger to themselves or others. Isolation booths are allowed for special education students as long as their parents give consent.