The mother of a former student at an Edina elementary school is suing the school district, alleging that school staff violated district policy when they subjected her second-grade student to a "body cavity 'strip' search."
The district in a statement said it "vehemently denies the allegations in this lawsuit."
The lawsuit, filed last week in Hennepin County District Court, involves an incident that took place during the 2017-18 school year. It says staff members at Countryside Elementary School searched the student, then 8 years old, without notifying the parents and without proper cause. The lawsuit says district policy requires parental notification for such searches, which are allowed only in extreme circumstances, involving "imminent danger" or an "emergency health situation."
In this case, the lawsuit says, school staff members performed the search to determine whether the child had defecated on the floor of a school restroom.
Marshall Tanick, the attorney representing the student's mother, said the child's parents didn't learn of the incident until months later, after they'd noticed behavior changes in the child, who eventually told them about the search. Tanick said the incident prompted substantial emotional distress, adding that the child has been seeing a therapist and no longer attends Countryside Elementary.
"The school district, we allege, failed to follow multiple policies it has for this situation, [including] doing it in a nonemergency situation and not telling the parents before, during or after," he said. "All of those are violations of the school districts' own policies."
The lawsuit is seeking financial damages of more than $50,000 — Tanick said the amount would be decided at trial — and access to the district's unredacted report about the incident. Tanick said school officials have provided the parents with only portions of their investigative report, leaving out the report's final conclusions.
"The parents want to know what happened, and why it happened," he said.
In a statement, Edina Public Schools spokeswoman Mary Woitte said district officials couldn't comment in detail on the allegations, citing the pending lawsuit and privacy restrictions involving the former student. But she said the district "will defend itself from these inaccurate and misleading claims."
"District staff acted to support this student, and it is unfortunate that this matter has progressed to this point based on significant misunderstandings of the district's actions," the statement said. "District staff at all times has the best interests of its students as their primary focus and goal, and the district remains committed to providing the best possible education and environment for its students."
Erin Golden • 612-673-4790