By CHRISTIN COYNE
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit involving Peaster ISD brought by a family claiming their then 8-year-old child was “violently” washed by school staff.
U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means on Oct. 29 dismissed the petition brought by Michael and Amber Tilley last year against the school district after an order by the judge to the boy’s parents was returned as undeliverable and the parents failed to respond.
The Tilleys claimed school staff, in retaliation for disputes with the parents, “berated and harassed” the boy in November 2011, told him he was dirty and smelled bad and violently scrubbed him with a wash cloth, violating the boy’s constitutional rights.
Superintendent Matt Adams told the Democrat last year he knew of no information to support the Tilleys’ claims in the lawsuit.
Children are not typically bathed by school staff, according to Adams, who said he thought it would have to be an extreme situation for a child to be bathed at school.
Normally, the district makes parents aware of hygiene issues, Adams said.
According to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, which conducted an investigation shortly after the incident occurred, the nurse and teacher gave written statements to investigators that one spoke with the child about his hygiene because he was dirty and one of them cleaned behind and inside his ears and his neck area.
They also told investigators that the boy was told he could use the shower at school if needed, according to the sheriff’s office.
He was also given deodorant and they left the room and closed the door so he could put it on in private, according to the sheriff’s office, which found no criminal offense occurred.
“Over the course of several years, various disputes [have] arisen by the parties, primarily concerning Mr. and Mrs. Tilley requesting appropriate educational services for their oldest son, [the 8-year-old’s brother],” the parents’ petition states. “However, as a result of the historically contentious relationship [between] the plaintiff’s family and the school district, on numerous occasions employees of Peaster ISD have retaliated against the Tilley children, and further harassed the children.”
In front of another student, two school employees reportedly told the boy to undress and take a shower, the parents allege.
When the boy objected to completely disrobing and taking a shower, the two forced him to remove his clothing and began “violently washing his body with a washcloth, scrubbing him over a large portion of his body, stuck cotton balls in his ears, all while ridiculing and harassing him about being ‘dirty,’” the Tilleys claimed.
The teacher and nurse allegedly threatened to scrub the child down in a shower if he came to school dirty again and forced him to apply deodorant.
The boy was told he and his backpack would be sprayed every morning so he didn’t smell, the complaint states.
The boy was visibly and severely distraught that night and, months after the incident, the boy was in therapy and was exhibiting “OCD-type behaviors,” such as taking numerous baths a day, constantly cleaning his ears and spraying himself with large amounts of cologne, his parents state, adding that he was traumatized by attending school and developed a fear of physically getting too close to people for fear they will say he is dirty or smells.