Family of Black 4-year-old removed from school by police sues Waterloo Catholic board

The family of a Black four-year-old who was removed from school by police has filed a lawsuit against the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

The suit’s statement of claim alleges the board discriminated against the student because of his race and mental disability and failed in its duty to properly care for him.

The family is seeking $1 million in damages, plus court costs.

The statement of claim says the boy was subjected to ongoing discrimination at school, including isolation, intimidation and lack of supervision.

“He was told that he was not allowed to play with the other children, and he was routinely segregated from the class in a separate isolation room,” the document says.

ONGOING DISCRIMINATION

The suit alleges “almost immediately” upon starting Junior Kindergarten at John Sweeney Catholic School in Kitchener, the student’s mother started receiving calls from the school accusing her son of being disruptive and destructive.

The school further reported they could not understand the student when he spoke, asking his mother if he spoke English. English is the student’s first language.

The boy is a triplet and was placed in a separate class from his siblings, without consulting his mother, the suit says. Despite a suggestion from his mother that his sister could be asked to speak to the student if there was difficulty understanding him, the suit says the sister was never consulted.

On one occasion, the suit alleges the boy wet himself after a teacher did not believe him when he said he had to use the bathroom. It further says he was left in soiled clothes all day.

In another incident, the document says the mother was called to the school for a meeting to create a safety plan for the student, which included isolating him and a medical assessment. The claim says the mother refused to agree to the plan, but the school went ahead with it anyway.

Following that, the document states the mother contacted a child psychologist who indicated the child was too young to have any meaningful results on an assessment.

POLICE CALL

The suit also addresses a November incident where police were called to the school to remove the boy.

The lawsuit says in late November, after working a night shift and turning the ringer off her phone, the boy’s mother missed a phone call from the school indicating she had 15 minutes to pick up her son.

The document says the mother called the school and said it would take her 25 minutes to get there. When she arrived, she says she discovered the school had called 9-1-1 and police had arrived and taken the student home.

The suit says the student was “terrified” by the incident.

“The student was criminalized for behaviours that would not be unique to a trained behavioural team,” the claim says.

Waterloo regional police have confirmed they were called to deal with a student “in crisis” at John Sweeney Catholic Elementary School.

Police say officers worked to deescalate the situation, then drove the boy to a family member's home.

The Waterloo Catholic School Board told CTV News it has received the lawsuit and is reviewing the document, but is unable to comment further.

“As the issue involves a matter that will now potentially be before the courts, the school board is unable to comment further,” a statement from the school board says in part.

The lawsuit claims after the incident, the student and family went through significant hardships.

“The school would not allow the student to return. Each day, when his siblings left for school, the student would cry. He did not understand why his siblings were allowed to go to school and he was not,” the suit said.

The suit said the student’s psychological injuries have required, and will continue to require, treatment for many years to come.

“He has suffered severe trauma that no child should ever suffer,” the suit says.

The board has previously said its actions regarding the November police call followed provincially established policies and procedures.