Butler County has been sued in federal court by a former teacher who claims Butler County Children Services Director Bill Morrison erroneously declared her a child abuser when he was the agency ombudsman.
Chavonne Printup, of Fairfield, was teaching students coping skills and how to de-escalate their behavior at St. Aloysius Cambridge School in December 2012, when an 11-year-old boy became combative after he was told he couldn’t go to the gym during lunch because of a problem the previous day.
Court documents indicate the student ran out of the school and was nearly hit by a car. Staffers were able to get him back into the school but he became upset again and knocked over some desks and chairs. Printup then allegedly applied what is known as a “small child restraint,” bear-hugging him from behind on the floor while another staffer restrained the student’s legs.
After he allegedly bit Printup on the arm, they called in more staff to employ a “supine restraint,” where both arms and legs were pinned to the floor by staff, until he stopped struggling and referring to staff using racial slurs. After he calmed down and they released him, court documents said he replied he was “fine” but after he got home his grandmother discovered scratches and bruises and called Hamilton police and children services.
After an investigation, Morrison found physical abuse was “indicated.”
“When an adult engages in a course of behavior that causes physical harm to a child, that is child abuse,” Morrison wrote in a report. “If three adults in (the child’s) home grabbed him, held him down and caused this kind of bruising, there would be little doubt that is child abuse.”
The police never charged Printup with child abuse but after Morrison made his finding she was fired from St. Aloysius and her name was added to the state registry of child abusers. She appealed to the common pleas court, who found Morrison was wrong.
“There is absolutely no evidence anywhere in the record to suggest, let alone establish, that if Printup caused the injuries suffered by C.M., they were inflicted in any manner other than accidentally,” Judge Charles Pater wrote.
The judge also said since Morrison did not cite applicable statutes on which he made his findings, he had to reverse the “indicated” physical abuse decision.
Attorney Chris Pagan filed Printup’s federal lawsuit against the county alleging it failed to train and supervise Morrison “regarding the standard for child abuse, the standard for the use of physical restraints, on causation (and) the requirement for applying law to fact.”
He added the state director of the Department of Job and Family Services to the suit, because Printup has not been provided a process to expunge the erroneous child abuse designation in the state’s central child abuse registry.
Pagan could not be reached for comment but documents indicate he wants the federal court to award compensatory damages, legal fees and a declaration that the county’s custom and policies are unconstitutional.
Assistant Butler County Prosecutor Dan Ferguson said he couldn’t comment on the case but it has been referred to the county’s insurance company. Morrison could not be reached for comment.
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