Lawsuit alleges principal 'manhandled' special ed student

Lawsuit alleges principal forcefully restrained special ed student
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ten year-old ReagAnn has autism, epilepsy, asthma and ADHD.

Two months ago, her mother pulled her out of Mokulele Elementary School on Hickam, alleging that ReagAnn was forcefully restrained by the school's principal and dragged down a flight of stairs and into a classroom.

"When he got into the classroom ... he pushed her down on the ground," said Theresa Kimes, who filed a lawsuit Thursday against the state Department of Education and Mokulele Principal Bart Nakamoto

"He tried to hold her on the ground and she kept getting up and that's when the principal kicked her."

Kimes added, "At that time, ReagAnn was coughing and crying and said she couldn't breathe. The nurse kept telling them she needed to give ReagAnn her medication for her inhaler. But the principal and the special education teacher told her if she's breathing she's fine and doesn't need her medication."

Kimes says the incident left bruises on ReagAnn's body -- and her psyche.

"I can't believe that a principal and a vice principal can manhandle my child like that," she said. "If that was us and we put marks on her, I know the school would have called CPS."

Kimes said she was on campus that day meeting with the principal and her teachers about her special education programs. But she said no one at the school mentioned the incident to her and that she only found out about it from ReagAnn's nurse, who took pictures.

She said the nurse took the picture at the objections of school staff.

"What they did do is they went to the nurse and said we want you to erase all of the photographs of what took place," said attorney Eric Seitz, who represents the Kimes.

Seitz has sued the DOE dozens of times over children being improperly restrained.

One suit was highlighted the cries of an autistic girl being held down by a teacher's aide at Kipapa Elementary School in Mililani. The state paid $190,000 to settle.

"It is an utter disgrace and until the Department of Education and the people who engage in these kinds of acts were held responsible, kids are going to be hurt," Seitz said.

The DOE declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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