Parents file claim with Riverhead district

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Parent Yolanda Thompson speaks in January to the Riverhead school board about her son and his repeated suspensions.

The parents of a Pulaski Street School student diagnosed this school year with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, who has since allegedly been suspended by the school more than a dozen times — often without parental notification — have filed a notice of claim against the district in state Supreme Court.

In the document, filed April 5 and obtained by the News-Review in a Freedom of Information Act request this week, Yolanda and Daniel Thompson of Aquebogue claim the district is responsible for “negligent infliction of emotional distress, and psychological and education damages arising from the district’s failure to properly train and supervise its employees.”

The notice of claim states the Thompsons seek compensatory damages for the district’s alleged infractions. The notice is required before the Thompsons can file a lawsuit against the school, said John McGrath, the attorney representing the family.

Mr. McGrath said the family can file a formal lawsuit 90 days after filing a notice of claim. He added that the family filed the notice in Supreme Court because they are seeking damages of more than $25,000, the limit the lower civil courts can award, he said.

Mr. McGrath declined to comment further on the notice of claim. An attorney representing the school district could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Thompson, who spoke before the Riverhead school board in February, accused the district of sending her 12-year-old son to in-school suspension 14 times for various reasons, such as being disruptive, after his diagnosis.

She said the district’s actions violated procedure and due process that must be followed when suspending students with medical issues.

Ms. Thompson also claimed the district did not notify her of the suspensions, as required by district policy, and made it difficult for her to obtain copies of her son’s disciplinary records and copies of the school’s code of conduct.

The student was home-schooled briefly in February, but later returned to school.

A recent incident involving Ms. Thompson and a school teacher prompted the teacher to take out a temporary restraining order against the mother after she allegedly threatened her and pushed her with her finger.

Ms. Thompson has claimed she is innocent.

District Superintendent Nancy Carney said in February the district had assembled a team to update the district’s code of conduct and spoken to principals to ensure that guidelines for discipline were being followed.

Ms. Carney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated Ms. Thompson is claiming the school violated district policy when disciplining students with disabilities. This refers to proper procedure when disciplining students, not whether or not the student should be suspended by the school in the first place.