Parents claim JCPS early childhood teacher verbally abused students, staff in lawsuit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The parents of a girl in Jefferson County Public Schools’ early childhood program sued a teacher, the program director and the school board on Tuesday, claiming their daughter’s teacher verbally abused students and staff in her Stopher Elementary classroom this school year.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Jefferson District Court, says the then-4-year-old girl loved school before the 2017-18 school year, but her parents noted “a drastic change” in her behavior as the year progressed. She was aggressive toward other students and her sister, cried for no reason, wet her bed, slept for more than four hours after getting home from school, and didn’t want to go to class.

Her parents, Charles and Savanna Hall, blame Lauren Hallinan, a JCPS early childhood teacher, for creating “an unsafe learning environment” in her classroom in the lawsuit, saying Hallinan verbally abused staff and students.

“I was pissed,” Charles Hall said of his reaction when they learned of the allegations against Hallinan and her removal from the classroom, according to an April 10 letter from Stopher Elementary Principal Brigitte Owens. “We were upset.”

“It’s extremely upsetting to know that you send your kids to school to learn, and they’re just being abusive, verbally or otherwise,” Savanna Hall said during a Tuesday press conference at attorney Teddy Gordon’s office.

The Halls included an internal investigation into accusations against Hallinan that launched December 11 and concluded March 13 in their lawsuit.

Some instructional assistants voiced their concerns to investigators, saying that Hallinan smelled a student’s lunch one day and acted like she was going to vomit; yelled or spoke harshly to students and staff in the class; and told a student to stop asking for a bathroom break during nap time, prompting the child to soil himself days later. A parent, who submitted comments anonymously out of fear of retaliation, said her son suffers health and anxiety issues and vomited “several times” on the way to school because of his anxiety, but that subsided once Hallinan was removed from the class.

Other aides praised Hallinan as a “top notch” educator. Two said they had never seen Hallinan act disrespectfully toward students or staff, and Hallinan denied the allegations against her, according to the district’s investigation, which found the accusation that she demeaned or belittled students unsubstantiated but the allegation that she yelled and used unkind words toward students substantiated.

Records show Hallinan resigned April 16.

Charles Hall says he and his wife aren’t sure whether their daughter was directly mistreated in the classroom, but they say Hallinan’s alleged behavior affected her indirectly.

“Whether she was standing right next to the kid who was verbally yelled at or whether she was one of them, the first party or third party, it’s all the same,” he said.

Hall said his daughter, now 5, “is doing great.” They've requested that she attend Hite Elementary next year.

“We’re lucky that it subsided, which was great, and she’s kind of back to being her,” he said. “We don’t want to revisit it. We kind of want to get this put behind us and move on.”

JCPS declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The Halls, who paid $155 per week for their daughter to attend preschool at JCPS, are seeking $5,000 and court costs from the district. They requested a refund of $5,890 from JCPS in a May 29 letter from Gordon.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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