Family claims teacher put duct tape on kid's mouth

ANTIOCH, Calif. (AP) — The family of an 8-year-old Northern California boy has filed a legal claim against a charter school accusing his teacher of duct-taping his mouth in class.

The boy's mother, Luvy Torres, said that Antioch Charter Academy II third-grade teacher Michelle Mankewich placed strips of duct tape over her son's mouth in November as a disciplinary measure, in a claim in Contra Costa County Superior Court on Tuesday.

The claim, a precursor to an actual lawsuit, is seeking more than $10,000 in damages, said Larry Cook, the family's attorney.

In the court documents, Torres also alleges that in a separate incident, another teacher, Marianne Dubitsky, also disciplined her son by placing a chair over him and sitting on it. The boy told his parents that other students laughed and poked fun at him as he was restrained under the chair, the claim said.

The claim also accuses a third teacher, Julie Fajeau, and Jeannie Dubitsky, the charter school's principal and mother of one the accused teachers, and the Antioch Unified Schools of violating her son's constitutional rights and discrimination.

Calls to the charter school and to the educators named in the claim seeking comment were not immediately returned Wednesday. A call placed to Antioch Unified Superintendent Donald Gill on Wednesday also was not immediately returned.

According to the Contra Costa Times, an internal investigation conducted by the charter school's principal found no wrongdoing.

Gill told the newspaper on Tuesday that the charter school is independent of his district, which nevertheless has general oversight responsibilities to ensure academic and fiscal accountability.

The school also has its own separate board of directors that manages funding, staffing and school policies, Gill said.

The claim says that the boy is diagnosed with a learning disability and received special education resources at the school. However, the alleged abuse took place in a mainstream combined classroom of first-, second- and third-graders where Mankewich, Marianne Dubitsky and Fajeau all shared teaching duties.

Torres' lawyer said that after meeting with the school in late November, the boy's parents filed a complaint with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office. An investigation is still ongoing, a sheriff's spokesman said Tuesday.

Torres' son is now attending another school.