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Family sues Chinese charter school over son’s punishment

Ellen Roy and Lyle Upright of Hadley filed the suit in Hampshire Superior Court this week on behalf of their son, a former student who left the school in March 2011. The suit was filed by Northampton attorneys Thomas Lesser and Michael Aleo.

The Department of Children and Families and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education investigated the allegations in 2011, concluding there was “reasonable cause” to support allegations of neglect.

The report led to the suspensions of Principal Kathleen Wang and teacher Regan Hall on June 6, 2011. Both were reinstated a week later by the school’s board of trustees.

The suit claims the child was unjustly punished for an incident others said was an accident, served an all-day in-school suspension without his parents first being notified, was slapped in the arm by a teacher and was forced to write and read aloud letters of apology even though he did not believe he had done anything wrong.

A message left with school officials seeking comment about the lawsuit was not immediately returned.

According to the suit, the child — a 9-year-old third-grader at the time — was accused of three incidents of misbehavior on March 23 and 24, 2011.

The 14-page lawsuit claims the child was accused of hitting a first-grade girl on March 23 and pushing a student in the school’s bathroom and pouring water on another student on March 24.

Before the trio of accusations, the child had received high marks for his good behavior, according to the suit.

People who witnessed the water incident said it was an accident and the other student was not harmed, according to the suit,

Roy was informed of the latter two accusations on March 24, but was not told about the earliest one nor that further disciplinary action would be taken against her son, the suit claims.

During a March 24 meeting at the school with Wang, Roy and the child, Wang allegedly told the student he was a “bad boy” and that his grandfather would be “ashamed” of his behavior.

Wang allegedly told the child that, if he were older, she would have informed the police about his behavior.

Those comments traumatized the child, according to the suit, causing him to fear he would be arrested and wondering if his grandfather still loved him.

When the child returned to school March 25, the suit alleges he was escorted out of class by two faculty members and forced to stay in a room separate from his classmates to serve an in-school suspension until 4 p.m.

During that time, according to the suit, the child was denied permission to call Roy, denied access to drawing materials, not allowed to see or speak with his friends, not allowed to attend physical education class, lunch or recess and could only use the rest room with a faculty escort and only after all other students were out of it.

The suit alleges the child was slapped in the arm by Hall after he had asked if he could see his friends.

The child was also required to write precisely worded letters of apology to others involved in his alleged wrongdoing, according to the suit.

Roy was never informed of the school’s intention to discipline her son and only learned of the suspension when she picked him up from school March 25 and he told her about it, breaking down in tears when he did so, the suit states.

When the child returned to school March 29, he was forced to read aloud the letters of apology, even though he did not believe the information he was required to include in the letters, the suit alleges.

Since then, the child has been home-schooled and undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the suit.

The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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