EXCLUSIVE: Mom launches $240M lawsuit against school board after girl restrained

By Cristina Howorun

An Etobicoke woman has launched a $240-million lawsuit against the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, claiming battery, infliction of mental suffering and negligence after her 11-year old daughter allegedly came home bruised and beaten after staff used restraints on her.

Last April, Karen Marr told CityNews she had pulled her daughter Charlie out of school because she was being restrained “every day or every other day.”

Charlie has a severe intellectual disability that results in a cognitive delay, and Marr enrolled her in a special education class with partial integration in the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, although she lives in Toronto.

Mother and daughter started the long commute last year, staying with Marr’s mother in Haliburton, after Marr was advised Kawartha could best address Charlie’s needs.

Charlie’s records from February, however, show she is regularly put in a restraints by a group of teachers.

Reasons include “not allowed to do something she wanted to do” and “setting events that occurred before school.”

Marr claimed she has never been given full explanations from the school, although she admitted she signed a “safety plan” that gives permission to staff to use restraints in certain circumstances.

Physical restraints are allowed in schools across the province, usually to prevent assaults or for self-defence. Although most boards have a “no touch” policy for teachers to students, the rules for special education differ greatly.

“They are telling me that these restraints are going to be used across the board, no matter where she goes,” Marr said.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has guidelines for how restraints are used with exceptional students, cautioning against repeated use.

A union document advises “this can lead to a familiarity with physical interventions that engenders a routine or ease with physical intervention, not because it is always required. but because it is familiar and feels effective.”

Marr believes restraining Charlie has become the school’s go-to solution, and they use up to five staff members to hold Charlie down. The lawsuit claims it’s been used as punishment rather than a last resort.

“There’s nothing that Charlie could ever do that would warrant that kind of force and five people holding her down,” Marr said.

“From the evidence that I’ve seen, bruising was significant all over her body,” explained lawyer David Rose who is representing Marr and Charlie in the claim.

“The worst incidents alleged [were] on Feb. 24, where she came home and not only did she have bruising but she had burst blood vessels in her eyes and in her cheeks, and that was concerning enough for her mother that she hasn’t sent her back to school since.”

The lawsuit alleges Charlie is too traumatized to return to class.

In its statement of defence, the school board denies the allegations and claims Charlie’s “attention-seeking mechanisms such as hitting, kicking, scratching, spitting and biting” necessitated the safety plan.

A 2009 Board document says “the intent of any restraint is to calm down the situation” and “physical restraint is only used in situations where there is a physical aggression and as a last resort when someone presents a danger.”

“Should a child come home multiple times with bruises and burst blood vessels in the eye?” Rose said. “The answer is ‘no,’ and I can say that as a father and as a lawyer.”

The Board declined comment because the matter is before the courts. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today