ANTIOCH -- The mother of a learning disabled boy has filed suit against Antioch Charter Academy II and four of its employees, claiming they either abused her child or failed to report his mistreatment to authorities.
The complaint filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court alleges that a teacher duct-taped the then-8-year-old's mouth late last fall, and another immobilized him by forcing him under a chair.
The lawsuit also asserts that a teacher's aide and the school's administrator violated state law by not alerting police or the county welfare department.
Named in the suit are academy Administrator Jeannie Dubitsky; her daughter, teacher Marianne Dubitsky; teacher Michelle Mankewich; and teacher's aide Julie Fajeau, who works with the two instructors. Learner-Centered School Inc., the nonprofit corporation that operates the charter school, is also a defendant.
None of the individuals returned phone calls Friday.
The school's council has not met this academic year to elect a president, and former President Luann Duggan declined to comment.
According to the suit, Mankewich covered the third-grader's mouth with duct tape, knowing that he has asthma and intimidated him into keeping it on for the duration of class while encouraging other children to ridicule him.
She also allegedly duct-taped the mouths and hands of at least one other student.
Marianne Dubitsky put the boy under a chair and sat on it to keep him in place during a group activity, according to the suit, which states that both this action and the duct-taping incident could have triggered a potentially dangerous asthmatic attack.
The lawsuit goes on to say that after the boy's parents told Jeannie Dubitsky what had happened, she called a meeting with them and the two teachers during which Mankewich admitted using the duct tape. Marianne Dubitsky reportedly refused to discuss the allegations involving the chair.
Jeannie Dubitsky told the parents that the school would investigate the situation thoroughly and take appropriate action, but in January she notified the couple that the school had found no evidence of abuse and wouldn't be pursuing the matter further, according to the document.
The complaint alleges that the teachers violated the boy's constitutional rights by actions that constitute unreasonable seizure and excessive force and asserts that the administrator shirked her duty as a state-mandated reporter of abuse to look into the parents' accusations.
Fajeau and Jeannie Dubitsky are accused of encouraging or helping their colleagues to violate the student's rights.
Pittsburg parent Pamela Goodman has a different perspective on the allegations, however.
She said two of her children were in the class where the incidents took place, and although she received only limited information from them about what purportedly happened, she said she volunteers at the school and knows the defendants.
"(They) are absolutely not mean, vicious teachers," Goodman said.
The teachers faced a particular challenge with the plaintiff's son, she said, recalling two occasions when she saw the boy misbehaving and resisting adult intervention. He once used a wooden dowel to stab at some clay so vigorously that classmates nearby cringed, she said, and another time he disrupted a birthday party by throwing cake at people.
"This child has a lot of emotional problems (and) his mom had to have known he had these difficulties," Goodman said.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.