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School worker accused of forcing Lorain 4th grader to eat food out of garbage can

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 10:17 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2021 at 11:27 PM EST
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LORAIN, Ohio (WOIO) - A Lorain school employee has been accused of forcing a student to eat food out of a garbage can, sparking a federal civil rights lawsuit against the district.

The complaint was filed by Cleveland attorney Jared Klebanow in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on Wednesday.

It was submitted on behalf of Latasha Williams, the mother of a Palm Elementary fourth-grader.

According to Williams, the child did not like the waffles she was eating in the cafeteria, so she threw them away. But a short time later, an employee working in the lunchroom told her to grab a paper towel before pulling the waffles out of the garbage can. Then she made the student eat them in front of her classmates.

Williams said her daughter told her about the alleged incident last month.

“It’s humiliating, it’s disgraceful, and it’s unacceptable,” Klebanow told 19 News. “Every citizen, including children, has the right to bodily integrity... the child victim had her constitutional rights violated by this educator. This is an educator hired to protect our children, not to degrade them and humiliate them.”

Before an unrelated Board of Education work session on Wednesday, 19 News spoke with district officials.

Superintendent and CEO Jeff Graham acknowledged the serious nature of the situation but declined to comment at length.

“We’re in the middle of an investigation, and unfortunately, because of that, we can’t comment right now,” he said.

The Board of Education president admitted he and the board members had just become aware of the lawsuit.

“The allegations are extremely disturbing,” said Mark Ballard.

Williams said her daughter became physically ill after consuming the food; she added that she lost her job because of missed work due to caring for her.

“It literally flipped my whole family upside down,” she told 19 News. “She has changed at home. She doesn’t act the same. She doesn’t even want to go to school.”

The lawsuit seeks an admission of wrongdoing, a collaborative effort to prevent such incidents in the future, and an undetermined amount of money.

The Lorain City School District released the following statement:

Lorain City Schools is investigating allegations that staff forced a student to eat food that was retrieved from a cafeteria garbage can at one of our elementary schools. District authorities responded in accordance with board policy and past practice by placing any staff member who could potentially be involved in incidents of this serious nature on immediate paid administrative leave, pending an investigation.

Graham said the investigation should be complete in a matter of days, and the district will be able to comment further at that time.

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