Washoe school accused of disability discrimination
October 9, 2013
RENO — Parents of a disabled high school student claimed staff members at a Washoe County campus discriminated against their daughter by inappropriately restraining her 110 times over seven weeks, often pinning her to the floor for minutes at a time.
Kurt and Michelle Huntoon filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Oct. 1 accusing the county and the Washoe County School District of negligence, fraud, assault and battery in the treatment of their teenage daughter, who communicates primarily through sign language.
They say the repeated use of excessive force and violence from late August through mid-November 2011 violated her constitutional rights and subjected her to physical, mental, emotional and psychological abuse.
School district officials did not immediately respond to requests by The Associated Press for comment about the litigation, which was first reported Tuesday by the Reno Gazette-Journal.
On several occasions, staff members at Spanish Springs High School assaulted the teen, now 17, "by grabbing her, forcing her to lie on the floor and holding her to the floor, restricting her movement and preventing her from communicating," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the district was negligent in hiring and training employees who should have known they were using excessive force.
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The restraint tactics "carry a high risk of positional asphyxia which can result in serious injury or death, particularly to individuals … who are unable to clearly , verbally communicate, and who have their primary means of communication, their hands, restrained," said the lawsuit filed by Reno lawyers Dane Anderson and Joshua Woodbury.
The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $10,000 in damages.
The Huntoons said they entered a settlement agreement in December 2012 after school district officials agreed to provide their daughter with a community based instruction program with a behavior technician.
They said in the lawsuit the district never delivered on the promise.