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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, May 26, 2016 10:02 pm

Mother suing FWCS, teacher

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

A woman is suing Fort Wayne Community Schools and an elementary teacher, alleging she spanked the woman’s daughter late last year.

Steffanie Haney, mother of the then-6-year-old girl, filed the suit Thursday in Allen Superior Court. In addition to FWCS, Jacalyn Butler, a first-grade teacher at Forest Park Elementary, and Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Haney said in the lawsuit that Butler struck Haney’s daughter, listed in court documents as "M.H.," "on her buttocks on or about Nov. 12 or 13 and in the presence of other students and FWCS staff."

Haney claims her daughter "suffered severe pain, mental and emotional distress, physical injury and humiliation as a result of the violence."

FWCS board minutes from Dec. 14 state Butler was placed on unpaid suspension Nov. 25. The lawsuit states Butler was back to full-time teaching at FWCS as of Nov. 30.

Haney is seeking damages "in whatever amount a judge and jury may find reasonable." The suit states there is a cap on money available to individuals for tort claims under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. Haney might also seek additional money she is entitled to under federal law, including attorneys’ fees and other costs, according to the lawsuit.

Krista Stockman, FWCS spokeswoman, said the school district does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Haney said in the lawsuit she met with Forest Park staff Nov. 16, the day she learned of the spanking. The lawsuit said Butler was called to the parent-school conference to provide her version of events and admitted that she physically struck the child the previous week in front of two other Forest Park employees.

Haney withdrew her daughter from Forest Park shortly thereafter, the lawsuit said.

When the story first broke in November, Stockman said normal protocol, while not commenting on this case, was to place a teacher on paid leave while an investigation was being conducted. Neither spanking nor any other type of physical striking or touching of a student with the intent to induce bodily pain is allowed at FWCS, Stockman said then.

The policy to prohibit spanking dated from 1993, but there was a similar policy that preceded that one, Stockman said. The board voted to ban all corporal punishment in December 1988.