LORAIN, Ohio — A mother has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of her 9-year-old child who said she was forced to eat waffles out pulled from a garbage can by school staff members at Lorain City Schools.
According to the lawsuit, it happened in late November during the student's lunch period at the cafeteria at Palm Elementary School.
The lawsuit states the student sat down with her friends and started eating waffles, but decided she didn't want the meal after a few bites and wanted something else.
According to the lawsuit, the school offers two options for lunch each day. The student asked if she could have something else to eat but was told by the principal that she would need to finish what was on her tray. Unsatisfied with her meal choice, the student got up, walked to a garbage can and threw her food away.
Another school employee then removed the waffles from the garbage and told the student to go get a paper towel.
The suit states the student didn't understand why she needed to go find a paper towel but did so because she wanted to obey the adult. She then brought the paper towel back to the employee and was told to "go sit down and that she would be required to eat the waffles" that were removed from the garbage. The employee then stood over her and forced the student to eat the discarded food while other children at the lunch table laughed at her. The girl immediately started feeling ill and when she got home, told her mother what occurred at school that day.
According to the suit, the student developed a fever and was taken to a doctor. Additionally, the student has had to undergo mental health treatment for the "humiliating actions" and her Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.
"This isn't another student trying to convince them to do something silly or to eat something, this is an educator punishing this girl by forcing her to eat garbage," said attorney Jared Klevanow who filed the lawsuit.
The suit states that in addition to becoming ill from eating food from the garbage, the student suffered "significant emotional distress, pain and suffering." No other students were forced to eat discarded food out of the garbage, it said.
The lawsuit also alleges there was racial bias to the incident, with the employee being white and the student being Black.
The suit alleges the school employee who forced the child to eat from the garbage likely knew it would "inflict serious emotional and mental injury on a child when she harassed, bullied and forced the child to eat food taken out of the garbage." Furthermore, the employee's "actions exceed all reasonable bounds of decency and is intolerable in a civilized society."
"It's despicable, it's disgusting and and it's just hurtful," said Klevanow. "It's just hurtful to know that members of our community would treat children this way. There's no excuse. There's no reason and the city of Lorain School District has failed this family and this child."
The lawsuit seeks compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages from the employee and the school district, as well as attorney fees and costs.
The district responds
Lorain City Schools said two staff members have been placed on paid administrative leave.
The district released the following statement:
"Lorain City Schools is investigating allegations that staff forced a student to eat food that was retrieved from a cafeteria garbage can at one of our elementary schools. District authorities responded in accordance with board policy and past practice by placing any staff member who could potentially be involved in incidents of this serious nature on immediate paid administrative leave, pending an investigation.
While we are unable to comment on an ongoing investigation, we expect to have it completed soon. We will be able to comment at that time."
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