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Family of Goodrich student stuck in chair files lawsuit

June 04, 2014 - Goodrich-Less than a month after the school district reached closure with fourth grade teacher Nicole McVey following a November incident that occurred in her classroom, another battle may be brewing that could end up in a Genesee County courtroom.

At issue is the fallout from a 53-second video recorded on a cell phone by McVey of a 10-year old student with Asperger's Syndrome lodged in a desk chair in her classroom. McVey was removed from the classroom following the incident, which occurred Nov. 22, 2013. During the December school board meeting, the board voted 5-1 to dismiss McVey and in closed session OK'd tenure charges. At the same meeting, Oaktree Principal Michael Ellis, who was aware of the video, resigned from the district. The board accepted his resignation by a 6-0 vote.

McVey appealed the charges.

Details regarding the classroom incident, including audio, were released to the media in February when an attorney for the parents of the youth provided the video of the student lodged in a hole between the seat and back rest of a classroom chair. That video was aired on a Flint television station along with the national media and drew a host of public debate regarding the incident.

The voice of McVey is recorded on the video saying to the student in the chair: "How did you get into the situation? Do you want to get Tasered?"

Many parents demonstrated support for McVey, who served in the district 14 years without error or discipline.

On May 8 during a special school board meeting the board voted 6-0 to accept an agreement between teacher Nicole McVey and the district. Terms of the settlement include a one-year suspension without pay or benefits, along with remedial training for McVey focusing on classroom relationships and handling of student information as well as a written apology. McVey will be reinstated for the 2015-2016 school year without loss of seniority.

According to the agreement, McVey, school officials, the school board and union officials all accepted the punishment.

However, on June 2, Patrick Greenfelder, the attorney for the student's family, said the settlement was not good enough and submitted a lawsuit to Genesee County 7th Circuit Court. Judge Archie Hayman will hear the case.

On May 7, the night before the school board vote on the McVey agreement, Greenfelder, the parents, and district officials gathered to discuss the terms of the settlement.

"We were blindsided by the decision —we were never consulted about the settlement," said Greenfelder. "They (the boy's parents) were shocked with the decision. They did not want to go forward with a lawsuit, but there's really no recourse."

According to terms of the lawsuit obtained by The Citizen, the claim alleges grossly negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, failure to aid or protect and negligent hiring and supervision. The incident caused the boy to suffer broken blood vessels in his eyes, crying spells, fear of school, nightmares and loss of appetite, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit names as defendants McVey, then-Principal Michael Ellis, the school district and Terri Oliver, a paraprofessional assigned to assist the child. It seeks more than $25,000 in damages.

"What changed to make them just drop the (tenure) hearing?" Greenfelder asked. "It was, 'like it or not, here's an apology from the teacher.' And that's it."

School officials and the board of education had been pursuing charges with the Michigan Tenure Commission based upon the videotaped incident; however, those charges were dropped according to the agreement supported by McVey, the school board, district administration and union officials. An appeal had been filed before the Teacher Tenure Commission and a hearing was set for May 21. However, the appeal is required to be waived as part of the settlement.

"The parents wanted to see what was going to happen at that hearing," he said. "After that it would have ended right there, but it appears a deal was cut before."

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