Local News

Federal court gets lawsuits alleging students locked in closet

Posted February 25, 2011 7:27 a.m. EST

— Federal courts will hear lawsuits filed by two Fayetteville parents alleging that their elementary school children were locked in a janitor's closet as punishment.

Joan Williams and Charlene Covington filed the lawsuits in Cumberland County Superior Court in early February, seeking damages of more than $20,000.

The Cumberland County Board of Education filed notice Wednesday exercising its option as a government body to have the case heard in federal court. The lawsuits also name custodian James Lee as a defendant.

In court papers, Williams and Covington claim that during the 2009-2010 school year, their children and another kindergartner at Alma Easom Primary School were punished for acting up in class by being locked in a janitor's closet. Their lawyer has said the school district ignored the students' complaints.

Cumberland County Schools' attorney David Phillips said that administrators investigated the claims and determined the incident "simply did not occur."