Father alleges son assaulted at Garner school in lawsuit

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It allegedly happened at Vandora Springs Elementary School in Garner.

A father who's filed a lawsuit against the Wake County School System and several of his son's teachers sat down for an exclusive interview with ABC 11. Eric Fennell, Sr. alleges his son's teachers assaulted the child on campus-and says race played a role in how his son was treated by the school staff.

"It did not have to come to this point," Fennell said. "We had four adults in that room and an African-American kid [who was] 8 years old."

It's been nearly 4 years, but Fennell still gets emotional talking about that morning in the front office of Vandora Springs Elementary School in Garner.

Fennell was dropping his son, Eric Jr., off at school that day; but the 8-year-old wouldn't let go of his dad.

"So they began to try to pry my son's fingers off my legs. They couldn't get them off so they asked us to move inside the office," Fennell described.

It took the school's PE teacher to break the child's grip; that's when Fennell was told he could leave. But, as he was walking down the hall, Fennell says he heard Eric Jr.'s cries.

"I hear my son start to scream, I don't wanna stay here I wanna go with my daddy," Fennell recalled.

The father says he rushed back into the office; and what he saw next is now the center of a civil lawsuit filed against Wake County School System and the four teachers involved-- alleging assault and battery and infliction of emotional distress against Eric Jr. -- who was 8 years old and 47 pounds.

"One of the teachers was lying dead center on [Eric Jr.'s] back with his elbow in the middle of his back; one teacher had his legs pressed down, sitting on top of him holding him down. The third teacher had his face pressed down to the ground; holding his arm down with her right hand," Fennell said.

He said a 4th teacher was sitting in a chair, calmly watching the chaos unfold.

Fennell says he ordered the teachers away from his son and pulled Eric Jr. out of the school, permanently.

Garner Police investigated, but told Fennell there was no evidence the teachers went beyond the legal bounds of restraint.

Fennell points out that the four teachers were white. And, the incident comes to light after a string of racially-charged episodes at Wake schools this year. Fennell believes race played a role in how his boy was treated.

"He has never been in any trouble. So why would you do that," Fennell asked. "So they had to see him as dangerous, for the simple fact of the color of his skin."

Fennell says Eric Jr. Is now seeing a psychologist and taking medication for moderate depression.

For its part, a spokesperson for the school system tells ABC 11, the district cannot comment on pending litigation.

On Friday, a group of Wake County principals will begin a round of district-mandated racial equity training as part of the steps the district is taking to address the string of racially-charged incidents this school year.

Related Topics:
educationwake county schoolslawsuitGarner
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