A former student at the School of Excellence in Education is suing the charter school, alleging that an administrator used excessive force by disciplining her with a 4-foot-long wooden paddle known as "Ole Thunder."
Attorneys for Jessica Serafin, 18, filed the personal injury lawsuit Monday in state district court against the school and Brett Wilkinson, who her attorney said served as a summer school principal.
According to the suit, Wilkinson summoned Serafin to the principal's office on June 18, restrained her with the help of two employees, and struck her repeatedly on her bottom, hip and leg. [Emphasis added.]
At one point, Serafin tried to shield herself from the blows using her hand, and Wilkinson "smashed her hand with the paddle," the suit alleges.
The lawsuit contends the beating was so severe that Serafin began bleeding and was taken to a hospital emergency room for treatment. [Emphasis added.]
Serafin's attorney, Dan Hargrove, said his client was called to the principal's office because she left the campus before school started to get a breakfast taco. He maintained she was not tardy to class. Serafin is no longer a student at the charter school.
A key element of the case, according to Hargrove and law partner Cyrus Rea, is the fact that Serafin was an adult at the time of the incident. Under state law, a parent is not authorized to use corporal punishment against an adult child, and therefore the school is not authorized to use corporal punishment against an adult student, Hargrove said.
He added that Serafin did not consent to being paddled.
Touted for offering a "private school education at a public school price," the School of Excellence in Education is San Antonio's largest charter school.
This is not "an anti-charter school case. It's not an anti-corporal punishment case," Hargrove said. "This case comes down to an excessive use of corporal punishment against an adult."
The suit also alleges civil rights violations.
Wilkinson, currently vice principal of the charter program's Saenz Junior High, could not be reached for comment. Superintendent Ricky Hooker said, "The school’s comment is no comment."
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