Lawsuit says student placed in 'discipline box' at Duval County school

Parents sue Duval County Schools, claiming abuse of special needs child

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A lawsuit filed by parents of a special needs student against the Duval County School District and others claims that the student was placed in a “discipline box” and that abuse of ESE -- exceptional student education -- students is systemic in Duval County.

The suit also names the school board, two teachers and the Durham Bus company, one of the county's bus contractors. It was filed by the parents of a student, who is listed as “JV” to protect his privacy. JV's parents say their son, who has cerebral palsy, ADHD, a neuromuscular disorder, a seizure disorder and other disabilities, was abused by his teachers at Love Grove Elementary School when he was 3 years old.

DOCUMENT: Parents sue school district over alleged abuse

The 37-page lawsuit, filed in August, claims the boy was one of hundreds of students with behavioral disorders or autism who were improperly physically restrained or secluded. It says JV was placed in a discipline box made out of “unsafe, improperly stacked dry wall.”

Students knew the discipline box as “jail” and that if they were sent to jail it was a form of punishment, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also claims JV’s class aide and/or teacher at Love Grove Elementary weren’t properly trained on how to use his leg braces.

“Despite numerous attempts by J.V.’s mother to communicate this problem and find a solution, the aides and teachers forced his feet into these cast-style shoes with the incorrect braces attached to the wrong legs, which forced his feet to become twisted for multiple hours, causing bruising, red, raw areas, pressure sores and loss of skin to the point of bleeding.”

The suit alleges staffers at Spring Park Elementary School continued the abuse after JV was transferred there by ignoring or refusing to give JV his prescribed medication.

Durham Bus is named because the suit claims there is surveillance video showing that after JV was transferred to Southside Estates Elementary School, he was on a bus for an hour each way in a five-point restraint without his parents' permission.

The lawsuit also claims systemic abuse of ESE students, including:

  • From a period of 2008 to 2011 the district was aware of numerous occasions where ESE students were harmed, mistreated, and/or abused by school staff, including but not limited to a student who was restrained by duct taping him to a chair.
  • From August 2011 through June 2012, the school district reported 628 instances of physical restraint on 217 students. Of those, 89 percent had emotional behavioral diseases or autism.
  • The district also reported 304 incidents of seclusion on 120 students. Of those students, 68 percent had emotional behavioral diseases or autism.

The school district released a statement saying it could not comment on pending or anticipated litigation. 

News4Jax also contacted Durham School Services for comment, but we have not heard back yet.