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Family sues Nansemond Suffolk Academy amid probe into improper restraints of young children

In a civil lawsuit, a toddler's parents said their daughter "was pinned to the floor by weighted blankets and a chair."
Credit: 13News Now

SUFFOLK, Va. — A family is suing Nansemond Suffolk Academy claiming a former teacher caused harm to a child. 

In a complaint filed March 10 in Suffolk Circuit Court, the parents of a 3-year-old girl said their daughter "was pinned to the floor by weighted blankets and a chair" as a student at the academy's Harbour View campus. 

The lawsuit comes amid a probe into allegations that staff members improperly restrained young children during nap time in mid-January.

Three employees are no longer with the private school, according to school officials. 

“What we are dealing with here is conduct that is indefensibly bad. I mean it is just wrong,” said Ed Booth, who is representing the family. 

The girl's parents said they found bruises on her arms and she now fears sleeping because of being tucked in under sheets and blankets, according to the lawsuit. 

They are now suing the private school and the former teacher for $750,000 in damages. 

A spokesperson for the school declined to respond citing pending litigation. 

Booth said there's enough to justify legal action. 

"This is conduct, essentially using weighted blankets as a strait jacket for 2-and 3-year-old children, that is so indefensibly bad that we’re going to pursue every avenue to find out who knew what and when they knew it,” said Booth.

In a letter to parents and faculty on March 3, Debbie Russell, the head of the private school, said administrators learned about the situation at the academy's Harbour View campus in mid-January. 

Russell said the issue centered around a trio of former faculty members working in classrooms with children ages 2 and 3 years old. 

According to school administrators, they violated school policy by briefly restricting movement of some students during nap time.  

"This occurred through the placement of chairs and use of weighted blankets and/or nap mats," wrote Russell. 

School leaders did not specify how those items were used, and claimed no children were hurt. 

A school spokesperson said administrators immediately contacted Child Protective Services. 

In the lawsuit, the family asserts school supervisors or administrators knew or should have known about the situation and acted earlier. 

They claim school officials were notified of alleged inappropriate actions prior to the academy's holiday break in December. 

The complaint states there is a possibility other people could be named as defendants. 

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