The principal of Kenilworth Science and Technology School said Friday the charter school denies the validity of two lawsuits that accuse the school of mistreating a student and discriminating against several faculty members.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Education has launched “an extensive investigation of Kenilworth to ensure the school is safe, secure and providing students with a high-quality education,’’ acting state Education Superintendent Ollie Tyler said.
One of the suits, filed earlier this month in Baton Rouge state court, alleges the middle school mistreated a student to the point that she had a “near-nervous breakdown’’ and was forced to be home-schooled in order to pass the eighth grade after being suspended several times and then expelled.
The other suit, filed in May 2010, contends the school wrongfully terminated dean of students Carla Wells, discipline monitor Kesha Burton and teacher Shundra Hatch on the basis of their “race, gender, national origin and religion.’’
That suit, originally filed in state court, has been transferred to Baton Rouge federal court.
Kenilworth Science and Technology Principal Hasan Suzuk posted a letter Friday to “Kenilworth Families and Faculty’’ on the school’s Web page.
“As these matters involve legal process, we cannot share specific information about the allegations that are the subject of the lawsuits - except to say that we refute their validity and are vigorously defending ourselves through legal recourse,’’ he stated.
The suit involving the student alleges, among other things, that the school was told she had a weak bladder and would need special restroom accommodations.
The girl was in a Spanish class Sept. 24, 2010, and told her teacher she needed to use the restroom and it was an emergency, the suit says.
“She asked several times, and was still not allowed to use the restroom, and then urinated on herself in the classroom in front of her classmates and the teacher,’’ the suit states.
“(She) again asked the teacher ? if she could go to the restroom again to clean herself up, but was not allowed to go to the restroom until the class period ended,’’ the suit claims.
The episode cost her “severe embarrassment and humiliation, emotional distress, and mental anguish,’’ the suit says.
The suit goes on to allege that the girl’s teachers displayed “repeated acts of disfavor’’ toward her.
The suit notes that the girl was suspended for three days in October for an altercation involving a coach. The suit says the coach “falsely reported’’ that the girl threatened to attack her.
She was suspended in November for alleged cyber-bullying of classmates. The suit says she was falsely accused.
She was suspended a third time in December when a classmate “would not stop touching her in her private areas, and grabbed her buttocks.’’ She hit him with her notebook and was suspended, the suit says.
The girl was expelled in April shortly after she told a school disciplinarian that her classmates’ aggressive and violent behavior toward her had pushed her to wit’s end and was enough to make her want to “blow up the school,’’ the suit says.
Suzuk stated in his letter that “some students from time to time exhibit behavioral problems.’’
“As they occur, the school handles each case with action appropriate to the student’s, family’s and school community’s best interests,’’ he said. “We follow established policies and procedures for handling and reporting each and every incident.’’
No hearings have been held in the suit. The case is assigned to state District Judge Tim Kelley.
As for Kenilworth’s educators, Suzuk said in his letter, the school administration “always tries to hire the best teachers without considering race, gender, sex or religion.’’
He noted that the school had 15 black women staff members in the 2010-11 academic year.
“We are justifiably proud of our faculty, as they are the heart and soul of our success,’’ Suzuk added.
The defendants in both suits are the state and Pelican Educational Foundation, which was chosen to run Kenilworth after the school was taken over by the state and placed under the Recovery School District.