What happened in the Wolf Den? A case for the Sheesh-O-Meter

This is the last Daily Dawg until July 13th. The Dawg is going to take his annual break and chew on a few bones before returning in fine fettle.  At least we hope our fettle will be fine.  There will be plenty of bones to chew.  You have probably already heard about the SCOTUS decision on gay and transgender employees.  We will lead off with that one on July 13th.  

For today, we offer a candidate for the Sheesh-O-Meter. 

At Webb Elementary School in the Hazel Park Community School district in Michigan students sometimes spend some time in the “Wolf Den” to de-escalate from strong emotions, gain perspective on life by talking to an adult, and otherwise calm down.  That’s how the school describes the Wolf Den.  But after an 8-year old girl was accidentally injured in the Den, a lawyer provided a more colorful description. 

When the student tried to escape from the Den, evading the two educators who had chased her through the school hallway as she ran, one of the educators slammed the door on the girl’s finger.  Ouch!  It was an accident, but the suit alleged that this amounted to an unconstitutional “seizure” in violation of the 4th Amendment, and a malicious violation of the girl’s right to bodily integrity in violation of the 14th Amendment. 

Nope.  The court dismissed these claims, largely due to the disconnect between the pleadings and the evidence.  The plaintiff alleged that the 8-year old was “locked in a windowless room by herself for hours at a time essentially subjecting [the student] to tactics used by police when interrogating hardened criminals.”  The court noted that

None of the evidence in the record, however, supports these allegations. Plaintiff has not demonstrated that she was ever locked in the room alone, let alone for prolonged periods of time.

The plaintiff claimed that the district had a “practice of isolating young children with learning or mental disabilities by placing them alone, without adult supervision, in windowless, closet-like rooms for prolonged periods of time.”  But when she testified, the mother acknowledged that she knew of no other children ever being “isolated.”  The little girl in this case was not isolated—she was accompanied by two adults.  And the “windowless” room had two large windows. 

Lawyers are supposed to investigate the facts before they file a lawsuit.  That doesn’t always happen. 

The case is Wadley v. Hazel Park Community Schools, decided by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on December 6, 2019.  We found it at Special Ed Connection at 75 IDELR 221.

See you in a couple of weeks, Readers. Enjoy the 4th