Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Family, Coldwater district settle suit
By Daily Standard Staff
By DOUG DREXLER
and KATHY THOMPSON
COLDWATER - School board members Tuesday night agreed to enter into a settlement with the family who claimed their child had been physically and emotionally abused by the school district and a teacher in 2011.
After an hourlong closed session, the Coldwater Exempted Village Schools Board of Education passed a resolution without comment saying a settlement had been reached in the lawsuit filed by Melissa and Chad Ralston against the board and various administrators and teachers. The resolution says "terms for a settlement and full, final, and complete release of the claims have been reached that resolves the litigation against the Board and its employees in its entirety."
According to an Auglaize County Probate Court document filed Feb. 5, the district's insurance company will pay the family $30,000. That total includes $3,371 for medical costs, $10,000 for legal fees, $1,067 for court costs, $3,000 for the parents and $12,560 for the child.
The family moved to Minster after the district refused to remove the child from a severely emotionally disturbed class, according to the court document. No admission of impropriety or liability was admitted under the settlement, and both sides agreed not to discuss the case publicly, the court filing said. Neither Superintendent Richard Seas nor board attorney Beverly Meyer, who left midway through the closed session, would make any comment beyond the wording in the resolution.
The resolution said the board had reviewed the terms of the settlement and complete release of claims and finds them to be in the best interest of the board and the school district.
The lawsuit states on Oct. 25, 2011, teacher Jill Meinerding allegedly threatened to hold Ralston's kindergartner upside down, and with one arm she carried the child up two flights of stairs and down a hallway to his homeroom. The child was allegedly refusing to get in line.
Meinerding was placed on paid administrative leave the day of the incident and a pre-disciplinary hearing took place three days later, according to school records. Meinerding admitted to the incident, school records show. Film from the school's security cameras recorded the incident.
In August 2012, Meinerding was given a three-day unpaid suspension; her teaching license was suspended for 60 days, with the suspension stayed except for three days; she was required to submit to quarterly detailed reports for one year regarding any conduct unbecoming; and she was required to complete 25 clock hours of training in classroom management by Dec. 30, according to an agreement between Meinerding and the Ohio Department of Education.
John Charlton, associate director of media relations for the ODE, said in December Meinerding had completed all terms of that agreement.
The lawsuit also claimed negligent retention and supervision, intentional infliction of emotional distress upon the child, intentional infliction of emotional distress upon the parent, loss of consortium and failure to report suspected child abuse.
Those allegations are related to Meinerding's being allowed back into the classroom after two weeks. The child was returned to her class, where he began hiding under desks and displaying disturbing behavior, the lawsuit claimed.
The school also labeled the child a "problem child" and placed him in an SED classroom without creating an individual education plan, according to Ralston.
The other charges stem from the child's placement in a SED classroom, even though there were no prior evaluations given and the parents were not informed. Ralston claims the school refused to move the child from the SED classroom even after she had the child examined by two professionals who both allegedly confirmed the child had no emotional or behavioral problems.
Meinerding was hired by the district in 1994. A review of her personnel file last year included several performance evaluations stating she had a good rapport with students and could maintain discipline in the classroom.
In other business Tuesday, board members,
• decided to maintain the current eight-period day in the high school. The starting time for school was moved up 15 minutes for next school year. The day will start at 8:13 a.m. and end at 3 p.m.
• Board member Todd Bills said he had recently seen a district bus carrying only three Tri Star students and questioned whether the district would be better off buying a smaller bus or van. Seas said the district had looked into buying a van in the past, but the purchase price along with the cost of insuring another vehicle made it impractical.
• Accepted $450 from Midwest Electric for an iPad to assist in English Language Learning, $386 from the athletic boosters for a state football banner, $220.09 from the boosters for a state cross country banner, and $300 from St. Anthony Dinner Theater for the boys golf team working at the dinner theater.