Cumberland County parents sue over handcuffed child

1:59 PM, Mar 2, 2013   |    comments
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By: Emily Kubis

A Cumberland County family filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the Cumberland County Board of Education after their young child was aggressively disciplined for his behavioral problems.

According to court documents filed by Gregory and Camie Hoskins, a school resource officer handcuffed their son, who had been diagnosed with behavioral disorders, for more than 40 minutes because the child refused to participate in gym class.

The South Cumberland Elementary School student was diagnosed with a behavioral anxiety disorder while in kindergarten in 2009 and a mood disorder in 2011, and school officials were aware that he often had problems in class.

In February 2012, the Hoskinses were told their child would be sent to an alternative school, The Phoenix School, for three days because he would not go to his classroom and had swung at a teacher.

Court documents cite Cumberland County School Board policy, saying the alternative school is for students in grades 7-12, while the child in question was still in elementary school.

The Hoskinses requested that their son not be sent to the alternative school because of his anxiety problems, and instead be given an in-school suspension or be sent home.

School officials refused the family's request. While the child was in attendance at The Phoenix School, he became frustrated in gym class and refused to participate. The school principal, Eddie Nunley, and resource officer John Tollett were called to the class.

According to court documents filed by the parents, Tollett took the child to the principal's office, handcuffed him and made him sit in the corner.

The parents were called in for a meeting, and Nunley asked about the child's 504 Plan. A 504 Plan is designed to help students with health needs to participate fully in school, but the Hoskinses said that this was the first time they had ever heard of such a plan. They said that their child remained handcuffed for the entire time they were in the meeting.

Nunley and Tollett are named in the suit, as well as others with the elementary school and school district.

Calls to the Cumberland County School Board were not returned. A person in the offices said that administrative personnel and school board members were in an all-day meeting to choose a new director and were not available until Monday.

The Phoenix School telephone said it was unable to accept calls on Friday, and messages were not returned. Calls were not answered at South Cumberland Elementary School.

Emily Kubis is with the Seigenthaler News Service-MTSU
and can be reached at

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