The father of a special-needs child who was physically restrained by Brentwood schools personnel in 2014 filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the school district and a teacher, alleging that the student’s constitutional rights were violated and that staff used excessive force.
The incident took place on Oct. 31, 2014, and was captured on school surveillance video. The child, who was 14 at the time, is seen walking down a hallway against a crowd of students during a period change at the district’s Freshman Center when he is stopped and cornered by an adult in an orange shirt.
The child braces himself and his books fall to the floor as the adult pulls him down the hallway, the video shows.
The suit, filed by father and his son, now 16, charges that a teacher at the school put the student in a headlock, removed him from the school building and handed him to a school security guard, who threw the child on the ground and handcuffed him. The suit names the teacher and the Brentwood Union Free School District as defendants.
The civil action was filed in Suffolk County’s State Supreme Court in Riverhead and alleges violations of the child’s rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments and a U.S. Code provision. It seeks yet unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as payment of legal fees and other costs.
The teacher named in the lawsuit could not be reached for comment. Brentwood schools spokesman Felix Adeyeye said only that the district will respond to the suit in court.
The family’s attorney, Kenneth M. Mollins of Hauppauge, said that the pursuit of the legal claims is about righting a wrong.
“The civil rights of this young man were stepped on by the school, a special education student who has certain disabilities and the school totally disregarded those disabilities and they abused him,” Mollins said. “This lawsuit is a statement that you can’t step on the rights of your students.”
The father was unavailable to speak Wednesday, Mollins said. The child, described in the suit as “emotionally challenged,” is still enrolled in the school district.
The New York State Department of Education had reviewed the incident after receiving a complaint from Mollins on behalf of the family. The district had told the department that a teacher asked the student to change direction in the hallway and that the student had failed to comply.
The department found in 2015 that an allegation of physical restraint was sustained, and cited the district, ordering it to train its staff for “the safe and effective use of restraint.”
After the video of the incident surfaced last month, the district issued a statement, which Adeyeye repeated Wednesday: “The safety and welfare of our students is paramount to the Brentwood school district. As a result, this incident was given top priority.”
The district added that after an investigation, “training was conducted for district staff members who may be called upon to implement emergency intervention procedures.”