Denver-based appeals court rules against Oklahoma County family in Deer Creek School District case

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 against Oklahoma County parents who sued the Deer Creek School District and staff of Deer Creek Elementary School over the treatment of their child.
BY ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ Modified: April 24, 2013 at 9:25 pm •  Published: April 25, 2013

An appeals court this week ruled that staff of an Oklahoma County school did not violate a developmentally disabled student's rights by briefly putting him into a small “timeout room” when he was disruptive.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday against the boy's parents, who sued the Deer Creek School District and staff of Deer Creek Elementary School in 2008.

The lawsuit also alleged a teacher and an aide physically abused the boy — who had the mental age of 3 or less — in three instances.

The boy was put into the room at least 30 times, according to school logs, in the school years 2004-05 and 2005-06, judges of the Denver-based court wrote in a 31-page decision.

They decided 3-0 that the timeout procedure, used when the boy kicked, hit, spit, overturned chairs or threw tantrums, was not a violation of his constitutional rights because the staff's conduct “did not shock the conscience.”

Conduct shocking the conscience is the established legal standard for a court to find a constitutional violation in the circumstances cited in the lawsuit about an abuse of government power.

The appeals court decision upheld a summary judgment in favor of the defendants that Senior Judge Tim Leonard of U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City had issued.