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Lawsuit: SMSD failed to report abuse of student by teacher

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Posted at 6:19 AM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 07:19:35-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A lawsuit alleging abuse of a student by a Shawnee Mission School District teacher is moving to federal court.

A Johnson County mother filed the suit for her kindergarten daughter and names the Shawnee Mission School District, school board president, school principal and the teacher allegedly involved in the incident.

According to the lawsuit, kindergarten teacher Crystal Smith kicked the student in the library of Bluejacket-Flint Elementary School on Feb. 21, 2019.

The documents state that the child involved was upset on a class visit to the library because some of their artwork was damaged. Smith allegedly did not let the child get in line with the rest of the class and told them to stand by the bookshelves while the rest of the students returned to the classroom.

The child allegedly crawled into a bookshelf to hide in "fear of Smith." The documents then claim that Smith went to the bookshelf and "yanked" the child out and pinned the child's arm behind their back before looking around to see if anyone was watching.

Smith then asked the librarian to contact the principal, Teddi Pendland, and while the librarian was occupied, "forcefully kicked" the child while they were "lying on the ground in fear," according to court documents.

A video camera allegedly captured the entire event.

After the incident, documents said the child got up of their own accord and followed the teacher out of the library. They were then placed in another teacher's classroom by Pendland in order to calm down.

The student's mother said that no one from the school contacted her about the incident or about her child needing disciplinary action, and she found out about the alleged abuse when the child told her what had happened that day after school.

Documents state that the teacher whose classroom the student was placed in was informed about the alleged abuse from the child, but did not report any of the details.

When confronted, Smith allegedly told the mother the child was lying and must have inflicted the harm themselves.

The mother requested Pendland review the cameras, and later received an email with a report that acknowledged the child "didn't do anything to necessitate the intervention" and that the teacher "took it upon herself to grab (the child) by the arms and pull her out of the bookshelf. She then kicked the student."

The lawsuit alleges that the teacher and district violated the student's 14th Amendment rights to bodily integrity, alleges that the district and Pendland were negligent in training and supervision and that school policies for student intervention were not followed.

The lawsuit also alleges the district and Pendland were negligent in hiring Smith after her previous employer declined to rehire her to her teaching position.

According to the suit, the family is requesting compensatory damages be awarded in a jury trial.

On Monday, the district and principal filed a notice of removal, requesting the case be moved from Johnson County district court to the Kansas federal court.

Crystal Smith is no longer employed by Shawnee Mission School District.