LORAIN, Ohio (WJW) — The mother of a 9-year-old student in Ohio has filed a federal lawsuit against the Lorain City School District, claiming an employee of the child’s elementary school forced the young girl to eat food retrieved from a lunchroom garbage can.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, alleges the incident happened in the cafeteria of the Palm Elementary School in Lorain on Nov. 21.
The suit alleges the student told the school’s principal she “did not like the waffles” she was eating and “asked for a different meal.” The principal told the girl to “finish what was on her tray,” but the student instead “threw out the remaining waffles,” after which another staff member pulled the waffles from the trash and forced the girl to finish eating them, the lawsuit states.
“How in the world could one of their employees feel this is OK or an appropriate remedy for any situation at all?” said Cleveland attorney Jared Klebanow, who is representing the mother. “In this instance, the Lorain City School District has failed.”
The lawsuit claims the incident left the child “frightened and embarrassed” and feeling physically ill, and she has since needed mental health treatment as a result.
“The child is afraid of their school, doesn’t want to eat lunch at school,” Klebanow said. “I think she will have trouble trusting educators and administrates moving forward.”
The incident violated several of the student’s constitutional rights, according to the lawsuit, which also claims the 9-year-old was targeted because she’s African American. The suit further alleges the district failed to properly train its staff.
“The number-one goal here is to make sure no other child goes through what our client’s child has gone through,” Klebanow said.
A spokesperson for the Lorain City Schools said it has placed two staff members on leave as it investigates.
“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,” the district said in a statement provided to Nexstar’s WJW.
The district said it cannot comment further until it completes its investigation, likely sometime next week.