UPDATED 10/01/19 7:29 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Second grade is supposed to be a time to grow and learn in a supportive environment.
But the father of one Chicago boy believes his son’s physical delays led to classroom punishment. As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, that father is now taking his concerns to federal court.
Zacharion Townsend, 8, loves Legos. His father, Anthony Townsend, says it is a way to help his son develop his fine motor skills – with which he struggles.
“Buttons, zippers – you know, some of those type of things,” the elder Townsend said.
Townsend believes Zacharion’s second-grade teacher at Horizon Science Academy in McKinley Park could not tolerate those struggles last school year – leading to treatment of the then-second grader that prompted his dad to file a federal civil rights lawsuit on Monday.
“The teacher – she said I was being too talkative, so she put me in the corner,” Zacharion said. “She was going to put me in there for three months.”
“I couldn’t believe it, that he’d been going through this all this time,” his father said.
Teacher Sarah Krippinger had Zacharion sitting at a desk wedged between a wall and a cabinet.
“It made me feel alone and like pretty scared,” Zacharion said.
Townsend said he didn’t even know about it until he was called to discuss Zacharion’s damage to school property – consisting of cabinet scratches and a torn book page. Then, he found out that his son was also forced to ask for basic classroom supplies – available to other students, but not him.
“It horrified me,” Townsend said.
Zacharion even wrote notes to his teacher, hoping things would change.
“I started to get thoughts and things that I needed to do to make me feel better, so like, I asked her if she could be a little bit nicer,” Zacharion said. “But I didn’t want to walk up to her upfront, so I just put it on a piece of paper.”
When asked if he felt his son was discriminated against, Townsend said, “I do.”
Townsend said the teacher had expressed frustration that the child delayed classmates, struggling with zippers and such. Then he learned about more alleged actions by the gym teacher at the school, who is Kippinger’s boyfriend
Attorney Jon Erickson claimed the gym teacher “grabbed (Zacharion) by the neck, which was a battery – a criminal offense – dragged him out of the bathroom into the hallway when his pants were halfway done in front of the other children.
“He was abused. He was isolated,” Erickson continued. He was subjected to this abusive behavior because he has a disability.”
In response to the complaint, Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park spokesman Christopher Murphy issued a statement Tuesday.
“Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park takes the safety and security of our school community very seriously, and in accordance with school board policy, the administrative team conducts internal investigations whenever claims of bullying are submitted by parents, students, or staff.
“By having multiple security measures in place at school including an administrative team, security cameras, and security doors, HSA maintains a safe and secure learning environment for all to reach their maximum potential. When necessary, the school employs a variety of social-emotional supports and interventions for students and provides regular progress updates to families.
“Horizon Science Academy continues to be committed to maintaining a safe academic environment free of all forms of misconduct, and bullying of any kind is not and will not be tolerated.”
Kozlov also tried reaching Zacharion’s teacher on social media, but she did not reply.
Zacharion is now attending another school.