Antioch, Calif. (CBS SACRAMENTO) — The parents of an 8-year-old boy have filed a claim accusing his third grade teacher Michelle Mankewich of duct-taping his mouth shut, and a separate teacher of placing a chair over him and sitting on it around the same time.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that the lawsuit seeks $10,000 in damages and claims four school employees witnessed the incidents last November but failed to notify any authorities. After conducting an internal investigation, the principal of Antioch Charter Academy II found no wrong-doing.
The principal of the school is the mother of one of the teachers named in the suit which has been filed against the district, the charter school, the non-profit which operates the school, and teachers Mankewich, Marianne Dubitsky, Julie Fajeau and Principal Jeannie Dubitsky.
“These are highly inappropriate forms of restraint on a student. It’s abusive. I’d call it child abuse,” Larry Cook, the Walnut Creek attorney who filed the claim, told the Mercury News. “There’s got to be other ways to control kids in a classroom.”
The boy received special education resources due to a diagnosed auditory processing learning disability. However, the alleged incidents are said to have taken place in the regular, combined classrooms of first, second and third graders where the accused teachers worked.
The suit alleges that on the morning of Nov. 27, Torres was asked by the mother of another student whether she knew her son and other students had been duct-taped in class by Mankewich the previous day. Torres confirmed with her son that day that Mankewich took a roll of duct tape from her desk drawer and placed strips of it over his mouth, as well as on the hands of another student in class, the Mercury News reports.
“She just came up and duct-taped me,” the boy said in a December CBS5 News interview. The family was not commenting Tuesday, Cook said. “I think the teacher was frustrated with him for some reason,” Cook said. “The parents are understandably upset and concerned for the safety and welfare of their son, and he was traumatized by it.”
Torres also found out her son had been placed under a chair by Marianne Dubitsky around the same time he misbehaved during circle time.
Following a Nov. 30 meeting of all parties, the parents of the 8-year-old filed a complaint with the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office, Cook told the Mercury News. The school is on the Contra Costa fairgrounds and in the sheriff’s jurisdiction. A sheriff’s spokesman confirmed Tuesday that a report was taken and the investigation is ongoing.