Mother of boy with Down's sues Randolph, state school boards, school employees

The Easy Stander chair, similar to the one shown here, normally is used as a therapeutic device to prevent, reverse or improve the adverse effects of prolonged immobilization in paraplegic or quadriplegic children.

CHARLESTON - The mother of an 11-year-old boy diagnosed with Down's Syndrome has filed a personal injury lawsuit against the school where her son attended and several school employees who were supposed to help him.

Brenda Renee Barrows, of Randolph County, filed a suit Oct. 15 in Kanawha Circuit Court on behalf of her son, Barry Barrows, who attended Elkins Third Ward Elementary.

The suit names the Randolph County Board of Education and the West Virginia Board of Education as defendants, along with several school officials, teachers and aides. Barrows claims the actions of the defendants were "shocking and reprehensible."

Barry Barrows has been diagnosed with Down's Syndrome since birth, the suit says. He also suffers from a seizure disorder, which requires medicine at regular intervals. Barrows entered the Randolph County School system in 1999, where he was enrolled as a student in need of special education services.

According to the suit, in August 2005, Barrows was placed in the classroom of defendant Penelope Friddle. The suit says Friddle determined that Barrows had behavioral issues, despite Brenda Barrows working with her on that issue.

Friddle, and the school, claimed everything happening to Barry Barrows "was his fault because he was unable to conform or cooperate or was the result ... of bad parenting," the suit says.

Brenda Barrows claims she soon noticed her son not wanting to go to school.

"Throughout the school year while in the care of Friddle, the school began a practice of strapping Barry Charles Barrows in his chair," the suit says.

According to the suit, Barrows was distraught and constantly distressed over the reported behaviors of her son, so she had him reevaluated by the Klingberg Neurodevelopmental Center. A physician at the center submitted a recommendation to the Randolph County Board of Education, suggesting that Barry Barrows should have his own aide.

However, he was never provided an aide, the suit says.

During the 2006-07 school year, Brenda Barrows went to the school to deliver medication for her son. Upon arriving, she claims she found her son strapped in the Easy Stander chair.

The Easy Stander chair is normally used as a therapeutic device to prevent, reverse or improve the adverse effects of prolonged immobilization in paraplegic or quadriplegic children.

"It was reported to Brenda Renee Barrows that Barry Charles Barrows was placed in the Easy Stander as a punishment due to giggling or laughing during reading," the suit says.

Brenda Barrows claims she immediately left and drove to the Board of Education offices, where she met with defendant Donna Simmons, the director of special education. Barrows claims she was told this was not the first time her son had been strapped in the chair for discipline purposes.

Friddle, and aides Georgia Williams and Charlotte Scott, who are also named as defendants, confirmed the use of the Easy Stander as discipline, the suit says.

Barrows removed her son from the class, and did not return him until the school board could assure his safety. He returned Nov. 28, 2006. No extra aide was ever hired for Barry Barrows.

In the nine-count suit, Brenda Barrows claims the defendants are responsible for assault and battery, infliction of severe emotional distress and false imprisonment.

Therefore, Brenda and Barry Barrows seek compensatory damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages and court costs.

Attorneys Belinda A. Haynie and George B. Armistead are representing the Barrows. The case has been assigned to Judge Louis Bloom.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-2196

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