The father of a seven-year-old girl whose hair was cut by a teacher without parental permission is demanding $1m (£724,000) in damages.
Jimmy Hoffmeyer is suing a school district, a librarian and a teacher’s assistant in Michigan, alleging assault and battery.
He has also made accusations of racial discrimination, ethnic intimidation and intentional infliction of emotional distress – and that his daughter’s constitutional rights were violated, MLive.com reported.
The local school board described the allegations as “baseless” and said it would “aggressively defend” them in court.
Mr Hoffmeyer said his daughter Jurnee, who is mixed race, arrived home from Ganiard Elementary School in Mount Pleasant in March with much of the hair on one side of her head cut.
She said a classmate had done it on the school bus, her father added.
A complaint was made to the principal and Jurnee’s hair was restyled at a salon to make the differing lengths less obvious.
Two days after the incident on the bus, Jurnee got back from school with her hair cut on the other side, too.
“I asked what happened and said ‘I thought I told you no child should ever cut your hair’,” Mr Hoffmeyer said at the time.
“She said, ‘but Dad, it was the teacher’. The teacher cut her hair to even it out.”
The girl who cut Jurnee’s hair on the bus was white, as was the teacher, Mr Hoffmeyer said.
The local school board, in Mount Pleasant, said an independent investigation had found no racial bias.
Staff, pupils and families were questioned and videos and photos reviewed, including posts on social media.
But Mr Hoffmeyer said neither he nor his daughter, who now attends another school, had been interviewed.
School policy was violated when Jurnee’s hair was cut, the investigation found.
Despite having “good intentions”, the member of staff who did it has been reprimanded.
Two other employees were aware of the incident but did not report it. All three have apologised.
The lawsuit claims the school district “failed to properly train, monitor, direct, discipline, and supervise their employees, and knew or should have known that the employees would engage in the complained of behaviour given the improper training, customs, procedures, and policies, and the lack of discipline that existed for employees”.
Amy Bond, president of Mount Pleasant Public Schools Board of Education, said: “We are confident that the facts will prevail given our district’s appropriate and aggressive response to the incident and the findings of the third-party investigation that was conducted.
“We will aggressively defend against these baseless allegations in court and will not allow this to distract us from our mission to provide every child a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers.”
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