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8-Year-Old's School Arrest Leads to Lawsuit

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By Jason Beahm on July 13, 2010 12:02 PM

An 8-year-old autistic girl was handcuffed and arrested at her elementary school in Idaho after allegedly spitting on and inappropriately touching school instructors. The girl, Evelyn Towry, was taken to the county's juvenile detention center after being arrested on suspicion of battery.

Her parents, Spring Towry and Charles Towry, are suing the Lake Pend Oreille school district and the Bonner County sheriff's department. They are suing over the Idaho school arrest in federal court, alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Towrys are seeking unspecified money damages.

Despite the lawsuit, school district attorney Brian Julian contends to the Associated Press that the school district did nothing wrong: "The school district denies any wrongdoing in this case and feels that in accordance with various precedents set forth in state and federal law, the school will ultimately be vindicated," Julian said.

The lawsuit alleges that the Lake Pend Oreille school district discriminated against Evelyn Towry due to her autism and failed to make reasonable modifications allowing her access to school services and facilities.

The facts that surround the dispute are rather odd, though not completely out of the ordinary for cases involving special needs students. According to the lawsuit, on the day of the incident, Evelyn was allegedly not allowed into a school party because she was wearing a sweatshirt with sewn on ears, designed to look like a character from a movie. Instead, Evelyn was placed in a separate classroom with school staffers. When she tried to leave, the staffers restrained her, causing her to panic and react violently. The principal, Betsy Walker, called police, asking them to arrest Evelyn because "they were not getting their point across."

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