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Families sue school district over use of isolation booth

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Lawyers have presented opening statements in a lawsuit by five families claiming students were placed inside an isolation booth at an elementary school in Washington state.

Roger Davidheiser, a lawyer for the families, told jurors Monday the defendants “acted together to deprive the five children of their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizure and force,” the Longview Daily News reported .

Davidheiser said evidence will show some of the defendants were negligent and engaged in “outrageous behavior.”

Under state law, isolation and seclusion are only permitted if a student is posing a clear and immediate threat to themselves or others.

Isolation booths are allowed for special education students as part of an individual education plan signed by a parent or guardian.

Attorney Francis Floyd, who is representing Longview School District, said special education teacher Jerry Stein and his two aides did nothing wrong when they placed the 7-year-old son of two plaintiffs in Mint Valley’s isolation booth on a single occasion in 2012.

Floyd also said the record will reveal stark inconsistencies in the stories the children told investigators in video interviews and accounts in sworn depositions.

Davidheiser said all five children have been diagnosed with conditions that include attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

However, Floyd argued against a key contention in the plaintiffs’ case that the booth aggravated the disabilities.

The case is expected to last three weeks.

Defendants include Stein, who retired last year, former Longview School District Superintendent Susanne Cusick and former Mint Valley Principal Patrick Kelley.

Cusick left the district in 2014, and Kelley is now principal of Broadway Learning Center.

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Information from: The Daily News, http://www.tdn.com

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