A class action lawsuit dealing with the alleged use of holds, restraints and locked isolation rooms at Jack Hulland Elementary in Whitehorse has been proposed.
Two anonymous plaintiffs are already named in the suit, which covers a 20-year period from the start of the 2002 school year until June 2022.
Both anonymous plaintiffs were students at the school within the last five years. The statement of claim filed Oct. 31 states the lawsuit is being brought on behalf of all students at the school who were subject to holds or restraints or who were locked in rooms or placed in seclusion during the years in question.
The Yukon’s Department of Education and the Jack Hulland school council are named as defendants.
The lawsuit claims that the school council adopted policies allowing for the use of force and confinement as a means of controlling or modifying student behaviour. It adds that the Department of Education was aware of these policies and approved of them.
Use of force at Jack Hulland Elementary has been probed in an RCMP investigation concluding that no charges would be filed relating to a Jan. 27 incident.
Following the filing of the lawsuit, police issued a fresh call for witnesses who saw the use of force or isolation spaces at the school. A Nov. 1 notice states that police were initially made aware of concerns about the school on Nov. 19 of last year. Since then, they say conduct at the school has been under investigation by the Whitehorse RCMP’s general investigation section.
“At this point, the investigators are requesting that any teachers, staff, or parents who have not previously spoken to police and have information about these allegations contact Whitehorse RCMP [General Investigation Section] at 867-667-5551.
“Police will continue to reach out to anyone who is believed to have knowledge relevant to the investigation, but want others who may have information to know that the investigation is still active,” the police notice reads.
“The Jack Hulland Elementary School community was made aware of this new request for witnesses through a letter distributed through the school’s communication channels on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.”
The situation at the school also drew scrutiny from the Yukon government internally and from opposition MLAs during question period.
The lawsuit claims that holds used on students would sometimes last for hours. It states that occasionally, holds would cause injuries.
Examples provided were incidents where staff members sat on students’ torsos or applied pressure to joints in their arms or shoulders. The lawsuit also claims that students were placed in one of four “isolation cells” that were constructed in 2008. It is claimed that these three-by-three-foot rooms could be locked from the outside and were located in a small classroom that was monitored by video. The lawsuit claims that students would sometimes remain locked up in the rooms for hours, sometimes through their recess and lunch breaks. In some cases, it states that these long detentions were an almost daily occurrence.
The lawsuit claims that parents were not informed or not fully informed about the use of the seclusion rooms or holds and it was suggested that the behaviour of the students could be attributed to parenting or conditions at home.
The lawsuit elaborates on the specific use of holds and seclusion on the two identified plaintiffs, which it states amount to assault, battery and false imprisonment.
It states that both plaintiffs have suffered emotional distress, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their treatment. Based on their authority over the school, the lawsuit states that the school council and the Department of Education are responsible for these harms and should have done more to prevent them.
The lawsuit seeks declarations from the court holding the defendants liable for either assault, battery and false imprisonment or negligence among other declarations of wrongdoing. Damages for each plaintiff and member of the class action are also being sought but no specific amount was given.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com