Augusta-area mom sues school district for allegedly putting son in ‘cell’

The mom alleges the school locked her 9-year-old in a solitary room

A South Carolina parent has filed a lawsuit against the Aiken County School District claiming that her 9-year-old son was subject to “inhumane treatment” by the district.

Shaundra Mims filed the lawsuit against the district and Chukker Creek Elementary School, alleging that her non-verbal, autistic son was mistreated, according to Mims attorney Tyler D. Bailey, citing the Aiken Standard. The lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 28, claims the school was negligent and reckless in its use of seclusion and restraint to silence, isolate, detain and punish the plaintiff's child.

“We have filed this lawsuit to hold the defendants accountable for their inexcusable treatment of [the plaintiff's child],” Bailey told the newspaper. “Children should never be secluded and locked away alone in a prison cell-like room, and especially not by their teachers, individuals trusted to care for them. [The plaintiff’s child] was subject to treatment more in tune with conduct used to control prisoners than elementary school students.”

According to Mims, the incident happened Feb. 21, and Mims posted a photo to Facebook of her son crying in a room, allegedly at Chukker Creek, on that same day. The photo led to lots of Facebook chatter about the school. A woman identifying the child in the photo as hers, but using a Facebook name of Nisey Smith, said she discovered her child in the “cell.”

“So the school decides they are gonna lock an autistic child in a CELL (a room with no windows) as a punishment! I received NO calls or NO emails! This was discovered due to a POP UP,” she wrote on Facebook. “I have no clue how many days my son sits in this room or how long he was in there today! I am livid...My son was afraid and traumatized and a teacher has the nerve to be standing against the door so my baby can’t get out!”

So the school decides they are gonna lock an autistic child in a CELL (a room with no windows) as a punishment! I...

Posted by Nisey Smith on Friday, February 21, 2020

“We are aware of the social media post that’s gaining traction throughout our community regarding a student behavioral incident at our school today,” The Standard reported Chukker Creek Elementary School posted on its Facebook. “As you know, due to federal laws prohibiting release of protected student information, we are unable to provide specific details related to today’s incident that’s being inaccurately portrayed on social media. The incident in question has been investigated by local law enforcement, as well as our school and district. Our investigation and that of law enforcement has indicated no wrongful action on the part of our teacher or the educational aide.”

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The school district told the newspaper the room has a window in the door, and that school staff can peek through the window to see if a child needs assistance.

South Carolina law does not ban the use of seclusion in public schools. However, the state’s education department restricts its use to extraordinary circumstances, which would include the threat of imminent, serious, physical bodily harm to others or self.

“Aiken County Public Schools does not promote the use of seclusion in our district and there are no spaces currently being used for the purpose of seclusionary time out in ACPSD (Aiken County Public School District),” according to a statement from the district March 2.