PITTSBURG COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – A Pittsburg County jury has ruled in favor of an Oklahoma school district after the families of two students filed a lawsuit, alleging abuse.
The lawsuit alleges that then-Principal Gary Gunckel severely beat a 10-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy with a flattened baseball bat at Indianola Public School.
“The two boys were being punished with ‘swats’ for allegedly getting into a verbal argument on the playground that did NOT include any physical altercation or violence,” a news release from Tod S. Mercer, with Mercer Law Firm, and Cameron Spradling, Attorney & Counselor at Law, said.
The families claimed that Gunckel brought both boys into his office where he allegedly gave one two swats, and the other three. That student fell over after the first strike came down, according to court documents.
The plaintiffs claimed that Gunckel violated Oklahoma law by physically punishing a student who falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
“Oklahoma law clearly states that, ‘[s]chool district personnel shall be prohibited from using corporal punishment on students with cognitive disabilities according to criteria established by the State Department of Education unless addressed in an annual individualized education program (IEP) developed in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA),’” the lawsuit states.
The former principal was charged in 2018 with two felony counts of child abuse. The child abuse charges against Gunckel were ultimately dismissed without prejudice.
Recently, the case went before a jury, which ruled in favor of the Indianola School District.
According to the McAlester News-Capital, the defense said the boys were originally given in-school detention but they requested paddling instead. The defense even claimed that the boys’ parents were aware of the punishment and gave consent.