A mother sues LPSS after she claimed her son with special needs was abused | education
A mother alleged in a lawsuit that her special needs son was abused by Southside High School administrators and Youngsville police officers when he was left alone on the bus during an excessive heat warning and not allowed to get off to be released to his caretaker.
Candace Dequiant filed a lawsuit in Lafayette County Circuit Court last week, claiming that she and her child have suffered and continue to suffer severe emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment due to the alleged abuse.
In addition to being entitled to general damages, which were not specified in the suit, she and her son are entitled to “exemplary damages for violation of their constitutional rights,” said DeQuent, who is represented by attorneys at Welborn and Hargett, LLC. “
Wade Trahan, an attorney representing the city of Youngsville, said the city is in the investigation phase of the lawsuit and would not comment further because it is awaiting litigation. Lafayette Parish School System spokeswoman Amanda Blanco said the district does not comment on pending litigation.
DeQuente’s teenage son suffers from severe autism and has the mental capacity of an 18-month-old, according to the lawsuit.
On the first day of school in August, special education buses at Southshed High School were not running, according to the lawsuit. DeQuente and her son’s caregiver took the child to and from school that day and introduced themselves to school officials.
The next day, the caregiver took the student to school without a problem. Dequiant informed the school administration that the caregiver would pick up her son at the end of the day and the caregiver called the school to confirm where he was being picked up.
But when the caregiver arrived, school officials told her the boy was being put on a bus, according to the lawsuit. The boy’s teacher called that evening and said he had been put on the bus by mistake and that the bus would arrive at 5:45 a.m. the next morning to take the boy to school.
Dequiant was concerned that her son would have a difficult time with such a long day because of his severe autism, but the teacher said he would be in contact with her throughout the day and let her know how her son was coping, according to the lawsuit.
The student was picked up at 5:45 a.m., but Decuyante had not heard from his teacher all day. That afternoon, the assistant principal called Dequant and said the boy wouldn’t get on the bus and someone needed to pick him up from school.
DeQuent said his discomfort was likely due to the early pickup time but that his caregiver would come to pick him up. The caregiver was able to talk the boy out of his classroom and into her car, according to the law.
The next day, Aug. 17, Dequiant’s son was taken by bus at 5:45 a.m., and neither she nor his caregiver received any updates about the student, according to the lawsuit. Dequeant went to an appointment in Crawley that afternoon and the caregiver waited at the boy’s home for the bus to pick him up.
At approximately 3:20 p.m. that day, the caregiver told Dikiwant that the child had not returned home from school and had not heard anything from school officials. When the caregiver called the school, no one answered.
Dequeant noticed that she missed calls and voicemails from blocked and private numbers. When she returned the phone call to LPSS Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Janine LaFleur, DeQuente said she was in Crowley and it would take about an hour and a half to get to Southside High School.
The caregiver told Dequeaunt that police officers came to the house and said someone needed to pick up the boy. At approximately 4 p.m., the caregiver arrived at Southside and Youngsville Police Department officers were surrounding the bus.
The boy appeared to be on the bus alone, according to the lawsuit. One of the officers did not allow the boy to get off the bus to meet his caregiver. Neither Youngsville officers nor Southside staff allowed the caregiver to board the bus and help the boy off. She is told to stay in her car until his mother arrives.
“At this time, (the student) had been on the bus for approximately an hour and a half with outside temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit and an overheat warning,” the lawsuit states.
Related: Most public school buses in Lafayette Parish do not have air conditioning. Here’s how to help keep students cool.
An officer asked Dequeant to appear on a video call, but Dequeant was driving and said she could not accept video calls, according to the lawsuit. The officer “yelled at (DeQuyant) and said she was criminally neglecting (the child), then hung up.”
The caregiver told Dequeant that more officers were on the way and that a school official was calling Child Protective Services.
DeQuent arrived at school at about 5:30 p.m., her son was still on the bus and a Youngsville officer was standing at the door preventing him from getting off, according to the lawsuit.
“At this time, (the boy) was unlawfully detained on the bus by the Youngsville Police Department in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit for three hours,” the lawsuit states.
“In addition to Youngsville Police Officers, Allison Bloomer, Principal of Southside High School; Stephanie Guidry, Assistant Principal of Southside High School; and Janine LaFleur, assistant superintendent for the Lafayette Parish School System, were present, but there was no one on the bus with (the boy) trying to help him or keep him calm.
The student was suspended out of school, but his mother requested a readmission conference on August 18.
That same day, an investigator from Louisiana Child Protective Services came to Dequiant’s home and said CPS had received a complaint that Dequiant had neglected her child, refused to pick him up from school and did not plan to pick him up, according to the lawsuit.
DeQuente said the actions taken by Southside High School staff were “beyond egregious and beyond the bounds of what is acceptable,” according to the lawsuit. She said she felt the complaint to CPS was intentionally filed as retaliation.
She said in the lawsuit that the actions of the Youngsville officers, which left him detained on a bus for more than three hours during an excessive heat warning, put her son in extreme danger and their actions violated his Fourth Amendment rights that protect him from unlawful detention.
Neither the city of Youngsville nor the Lafayette Parish School System has filed a formal response to Dequant’s lawsuit.