Two Westerville school-district employees did not discriminate against two youngsters who were handcuffed by police after a 2011 school-bus incident, a federal judge has concluded.
Tonya Mitchell had sued bus driver Deidre Vandewater and Pointview Elementary School Principal Jeanne Roth, accusing them of discriminating against her son and daughter because they are black.
U.S. District Judge James L. Graham ruled on Friday that Mitchell did not present evidence of discrimination. He threw the case out. He also ruled that Mitchell did not present evidence that the Westerville Board of Education had discriminatory discipline practices.
“We’re gratified but not surprised,” said W. Charles Curley, the attorney for Vandewater, Roth and the school board. “At some point in the case, the plaintiffs are required to come up with evidence supporting the claims they make, and they had no evidence.”
Byron L. Potts, the attorney for Mitchell and her children, said he wasn’t surprised by the judge’s decision, either.
“It’s difficult to get these discrimination cases pushed forward or to prevail in them these days,” Potts said. He said Mitchell is considering an appeal, which she has up to 30 days to file.
Michelle and Mikeal Mitchell were 7 and 8 and students at Pointview in October 2011 when a fight broke out on their bus. Vandewater kept Mikeal and a female student on the bus until Roth arrived. Later, when Michelle and Mikeal were in Roth’s office, she called police after the children ran around, knocked items off shelves and threatened her, according to court documents.
Police handcuffed the children and took them to the police station. The school district expelled them for 80 days.
Mitchell also sued police. In a settlement this spring, the police department agreed to pay the family $25,000.
Potts said the Mitchell children are enrolled in another school district and are doing well.