WALL TOWNSHIP — The parents of an 11-year-old Central Elementary School student are suing the Wall school board and two teachers, alleging that their daughter suffered mental anguish after confinement in a drum closet for laughing during a music class in 2022.
The suit, filed in Monmouth Superior Court on Oct. 13, names music teachers Jessica Berube and Adrienne Foutz as well as the BOE. It was filed by Edward and Azuree Albanese through their attorney, Austin Tobin of Red Bank.
The complaint alleges that during a music class on April 8, 2022, Ms. Berube, the student’s instrumental music teacher, isolated her in a drum closet for a duration of two to three minutes. This action was taken, according to the suit, because the student was accused of laughing.
“The allegations are very disturbing,” Mr. Tobin said. “As alleged in the complaint, Mr. and Mrs. Albanese’s 11-year-old daughter was traumatized by blatantly negligent conduct on the part of the Defendants on April 8, 2022 simply because she was allegedly laughing in class,” Mr. Tobin said.
The complaint states that Ms. Foutz, who was present at the time of the incident, ordered another student to delete a recording of the incident. The docket states that “upon information and belief, said recording was, in fact, deleted at that time.”
The complaint also alleges that as a result of the incident, the student has experienced “severe emotional distress and trauma,” reluctance to continue attending the school and “exhibits diminished self-esteem and symptoms of depression.”
Board of Education President Christine Steitz said, “the board does not speak on any pending litigation.” District Superintendent Tracy Handerhan and Board Administrator Brian Smyth were not available for comment, as of Oct. 31.
The complaint also states that Ms. Albanese contacted the school’s principal, Jill Antoniello via email and telephone on April 9, 2022. The principal stated that “Defendant Foutz had denied that Minor Plaintiff L.A. [the student] was put in the closet in Defendant Berube’s classroom.”
At that time of the incident, according to the docket, Ms. Albanese also informed her daughter’s 4th grade teacher, Kyra LaFerlita, of the April 8, 2022 incident and further advised Ms. LaFerlita that it had been difficult to convince the student to return to school due to the aftermath of the incident, which includes the 4th-grader being “continuously humiliated and embarrassed at school…”
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