A Rock Springs couple is suing the Sweetwater County School District No. 1 and four elementary school employees over allegations that a first-grade student was repeatedly dragged down a hallway in a chair and left in a room.
The lawsuit was filed Oct. 22 by Richard and Danielle Kaumo on behalf of the male student, whose name is redacted and whose relationship to the Kaumos is not detailed in the lawsuit. The complaint was filed against the Rock Springs-based district and officials at Desert View Elementary. The chair incidents allegedly took place roughly 10 times over a two-month period during the first half of the 2016-17 school year.
Reached previously for comment, Sweetwater 1 Superintendent Kelly McGovern said the district had yet to be served with notice of a lawsuit, which the attorney for the Kaumos confirmed. After verifying that the suit had been served to the district last week, the Star-Tribune reached out to the district again for comment and did not hear back.
In a brief comment Thursday, the Kaumo’s attorney, Michael Stulken, said the family tried to “take care of this internally” — within the school district — but that the district wouldn’t appoint an “independent investigator.” Stulken said the district attempted to bring in someone who works for the same law firm that represents Sweetwater County No. 1.
According to the suit, the student “began to exhibit behavioral issues” during the beginning of the 2016-17 school year despite not having such issues beforehand. The student’s parents attempted to use medication and counseling to address the behavioral issues, to limited success. The cause of the student’s issues was unclear, the lawsuit alleges.
Eventually, the family was told by a former employee of the district that “the (student) was treated very inappropriately while at Desert View Elementary School,” the suit claims. The parents were allegedly told that Principal Barbara Rezzonico “would grab (the student), throw (him) in a chair” and hold him there.
The suit goes on to allege that “Rezzonico and others would drag the (student) to a room while (he) was being restrained in the chair” and that the student “was held in this room, while by himself, for upwards of 1.5 to 2 hours at a time.”
The family eventually moved the student to a different Rock Springs school, and his behavioral issues allegedly “began to subside considerably,” though he “still exhibits anxiety, mental trauma, and emotional distress” from the incident, as well as from the verbal abuse he allegedly received from school employees, according to allegations in the lawsuit.
The suit accuses school counselor Christi Carson of participating in the activities and district special education head Kayci Arnoldi of knowing and doing nothing. The student’s teacher, Candace Foster, is alleged to have been “verbally abusive” to the student; the suit also claims she was aware of the chair incident and did not intervene.
The suit seeks punitive and compensatory damages from the district and the school employees.