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Family of child forced to eat vomit at Brownsburg elementary school plans to sue school district

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Posted at 4:57 PM, May 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-12 12:11:28-04

BROWNSBURG — The family of a boy who was forced to eat his own vomit at a Brownsburg elementary school is planning to file a lawsuit against the school district.

A tort claim notice was filed on behalf of the family on May 8 by Connell Michael Kerr, LLP.

"We will be seeking damages for gross negligence and willful misconduct, personal injury, physical distress, financial injury, and negligent infliction of emotional distress of [the child and his parents] as a direct and proximate result of the reckless and negligent acts or omissions of individuals employed by the District and District's wrongful policies and practices, in addition to the injuries [the child] sustained," the notice says.

A tort claim is written notice to a government agency that you plan to file a lawsuit and is the first step in the legal process.

The notice stems an incident on Feb. 16 involving a 7-year-old boy who was part of the Life Skills Program and five adults at Brown Elementary School.

Four staff members, Sara Seymour, Debra Kanipe, Julie Taylor and Kristen Mitchell, were terminated and criminal charges were filed against them in relation to the incident. The fifth adult, Meghan King, was working at the school as a behavioral technician for Kids Count and was also criminally charged.

The tort claim states that the child sustained "personal injuries, pain, suffering, and emotional distress" from the incident.

"Upon his move to the classroom and beginning September of 2022 the parent noticed [the child] began to act in a concerning manner, including showing signs of anxiety, depression and regression of skills. By January of 2023, [the child] showed signs of increasing anxiety regarding school attendance and began to show more strange behaviors toward food."

Brownsburg police were first contacted on April 12 regarding a report that a student had been mistreated during lunch. The February incident was captured on surveillance video at the school.

According to court documents, the video shows one of the instructors telling the 7-year-old student that if they vomit while choking they will have to eat their vomit. The child is given a tray and then vomits on the tray. It then shows a second employee handing the child a spoon and telling them to eat their vomit. The child can then be seen eating some of the vomit off of the tray. The child is then forced to clean up the vomit.

"Given his special needs, he could not communicate what was occurring during his school day," the notice goes on to say. "[The parent] and another family member had repeated meetings with school staff regarding his strange behavior but were constantly reassured that he was doing well."

The claim states the parent wasn't prepped before being shown the video of her child choking and then being forced to eat his own vomit. It also states that "Special Education Teacher, Sara Seymour appeared to be laughing and smiling" after he threw up.

Aide, Debra Kanipe, "gave [him] a spoon to scoop up the vomit. [he] took several bites of vomit, swallowing them and crying. Numerous school personnel were in the video watching him eat his vomit."

The notice claims there is "irrefutable evidence that the abuse occurred" as it was captured on school security cameras that are time-stamped and dated. It also claims there were multiple witnesses and the person who caused the abuse admitted to the actions during a police interview.

"The District has a duty to exercise reasonable care and supervision for the safety of the children underneath their tutelage and failed this duty," the notice claims. "Failed to adequately supervise and train its staff, and was deliberately indifferent when it knew or should have known its staff was verbally, physically and psychologically abusing the child."