Lawsuit claims Lakeview teachers strip-searched, interrogated 10-year-old Muslim student
A Cortland couple is suing the Lakeview School District, claiming a teacher, a student teacher, and a school nurse subjected their ten-year-old son to a strip search and interrogation about his religion and his loyalty to the United States.
Nail Majid and Amany Ahmad filed have filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the Lakeview Local School District, the school board, nurse Nancy Sandrella, teacher Kara Kasula, and Alex Dean.
The lawsuit points out that the student, who is now 11-years-old, has darker skin and hair, is of Palestinian heritage, and is Muslim.
According to the lawsuit, Dean was a student teacher in Kasula's classroom at Lakeview Elementary School on November 2, 2018, when she “for no apparent reason, began repeatedly and sternly,” asking the ten-year-old why he looked sad.
The lawsuit says Dean removed the boy from class and asked about his home life, questioning him about his religion, if he believed in God or Heaven, if he loved America, his school, and his friends, and if any of his relatives died.
Dean also spoke to the boy about her own spiritual beliefs and thoughts about heaven according to the suit.
The lawsuit alleges that the persistent questioning led the boy into making a false statement that everything wasn't okay at home.
According to the suit, Dean and Kasula ushered the boy into a windowless room and closed the door where school nurse Nancy Sandrella was waiting and examined the boy, pulling his pants down to his ankles and pulling his shirt above his chest. The suit says the student was manhandled and probed.
The lawsuit claims that Dean and Kasula stated that they “were going to stay here until they heard what they wanted,” so the student falsely told them that his mother disciplines him with a belt.
The boy was allowed to go home, and school officials didn't tell the parents what had happened, according to the lawsuit.
The suit states that not only did the incident violate school policy because neither the school principal nor a counselor was present during the questioning and examination of their son, the complaint also alleges that the school's Student Clinic Log was falsified to mislead the public about what happened.
The boy's parents say they repeatedly asked that their son be moved from Kasula's classroom after the incident, but that didn't happen for nearly six months after the alleged incident.
The suit alleges recklessness on the part of the teachers and the nurse, claiming the student was falsely imprisoned, his civil and constitutional rights were violated, and that the school board and those allegedly involved conspired to cover up the events.
Claiming that the boy suffered “severe and debilitating emotional distress,” the suit asks for damages to be determined at trial.
The school has not filed an answer to the complaint in court, and Velina Taylor, who became superintendent at Lakeview this school year, told 21 News she has not yet seen the lawsuit.