Child traumatized, lawsuit says

The parents of a fourth-grader are suing multiple county agencies, claiming that sheriff’s deputies interrogated and traumatized their son after school officials accused him of making violent threats days after the Virginia Tech massacre.

In a lawsuit filed April 24, Karyn and Joseph Roark allege that their son, who is now in the fifth grade, was traumatized by deputies in April 2007 after El Granada Elementary School Principal Melinda Fore called authorities to report that the boy was making threats.

In the first incident, on April 25, 2007, Karyn Roark claims in the lawsuit that she received a call from Fore that her son made threats and that deputies had been dispatched to the school. Roark claims in court documents she arrived to find her son exhausted and teary eyed.

The lawsuit claims the two deputies interrogated the frightened boy without the parents’ presence, at one point telling him, “You know you want to kill people. Who do you want to kill?” The Roarks claim authorities took their son by ambulance to San Mateo Medical Center and told his mother that she had no say in the matter.

Once at the hospital, doctors determined he was not a threat to himself or others, and suggested authorities had overreacted due to the Virginia Tech rampage, which occurred nine days earlier.

In court documents, the Roarks say they have never received details from school officials about the nature of the threats, and that no one was a firsthand witness to the alleged threats.

Among those named in the lawsuit are the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department, the San Mateo County Office of Education and the Cabrillo Unified School District and its current superintendent, Robert Gaskill.

Sheriff’s Lt. Marc Alcantara said he could not comment on the incident, citing privacy concerns involving mental health issues and children. Gaskill also said he could not comment, but said that in general, many schools have zero-tolerance policies when it comes to threats. Porter Sexton, senior administrator with the San Mateo Office of Education, said his office had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also alleges that on March 4 of this year, their son’s freedom of speech was violated when he was unfairly suspended from Alvin S. Hatch Elementary School after drawing a picture that contained a gun. The boy’s parents said in the lawsuit that the image was nonviolent and depicted a scene from a video game.

tbarak@examiner.com

Wide-ranging claim

Two disciplinary incidents against a Half Moon Bay elementary school student have spawned a lawsuit against multiple county agencies. These are the agencies and officials named.

» San Mateo County Office of Education

Superintendent Jean Holbrook

» Cabrillo Unified School District

Superintendent Robert Gaskill

Former interim Superintendent Allan Kass

» El Granada Elementary School

Principal Melinda Fore

Teacher Laurie McMahon

School psychologist Connie Johnson

» Alvin S. Hatch Elementary School

Principal Mark Loos

Teacher Jan McFarland-Brown

» San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department

San Mateo County Health Department

American Medical Response West

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