Paddling lawsuits stacking up on principal

SOURCE:, April 27, 2001

ZWOLLE, La. (AP) -- Lawsuits are stacking up against an elementary school principal accused of excessively paddling children.

The latest claim, filed this week, comes from the parent of a 9-year-old boy. The child allegedly was paddled 17 times in the first eight weeks of school. The lawsuit also names a teacher and the Sabine Parish School Board as defendants.

Three weeks ago, Chenette and Robert Cahanin Jr. sued principal Judy Rials and the school board, claiming that paddlings by Rials in December left bruise marks on their 10-year-old daughter's buttocks.

District Attorney Don Burkett investigated the paddling of the 10-year-old girl, but declined to file charges, saying he found no basis for criminal intent.

Both lawsuits seek unspecified damages.

In the new lawsuit, Daphne Joy Ebarb said she protested her son's "beatings" to Rials and teacher Sheryl Wilson, said attorney Kent Mercier, but instead was threatened with having her son suspended for three days.

"They did not comply with her requests to stop paddling her son," Mercier said.

Ebarb's son has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a neurological disorder for which he received medication.

Unlike the parents in the first suit, Ebarb never voiced her objections to the School Board or authorities.

Superintendent Dan Leslie said she was surprised to learn of Ebarb's lawsuit.

"I've never heard one word from her. It's never been brought to my attention."

Rials, too, was unaware of the lawsuit, but declined comment because of the pending litigation.

Mercier, who also represents the Cahanins, said the goal of the lawsuits is not a major monetary award.

"We just want to bring sunshine to an action that needs to be changed," Mercier said.

Both lawsuits seek to have corporal punishment declared unconstitutional, Mercier said.

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