Local News

Lawsuit: Durham Teacher Taped Child's Mouth Shut

Posted May 31, 2006

— The parents of a 9-year-old boy with cerebral palsy filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday against a Durham teacher who they say assaulted their son.

Wendell and Duchess Tabb claim Jill Mitchell, a teacher at Hope Valley Elementary School, used tape to cover the mouth of their son, Emmanuel Tabb, to keep him quiet.

"She ripped a piece of masking tape from a roll and forcefully placed it over (Emmanuel's) mouth," said Tabb family attorney Will Zerhouni.

The lawsuit also says that Emmanuel, who is also blind in one eye and suffers from asthma, has suffered severe emotional anguish as a result of the incident.

"Imagine your child having severe asthma and having his mouth taped shut," said Wendell Tabb, who also works for Durham Public Schools as a teacher at Hillside High School.

The Durham school board, school system Superintendent Ann Denlinger and the school principal are also named in the lawsuit. Court papers claim that they knew of the practice but did nothing to stop it, and violated Emmanuel's constitutional rights.

"Nobody from the school responded, nobody from the school system has responded to the incident," Zerhouni said.

Records show that less than 10 days after the alleged incident, Mitchell, who had been with Durham Public Schools for six years, no longer worked for the school system.

No one with the school system would comment because of the lawsuit. Mitchell did not return WRAL's calls for comment.

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