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PITTSBURG COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The families of two students have filed a lawsuit against Indianola Public Schools, alleging that a former principal severely beat two students with a flattened baseball bat.

The alleged incident that is the subject of the lawsuit, filed earlier this month, occurred on Sept. 6, 2018, at Indianola School, according to a news release issued by Tod S. Mercer with Mercer Law Firm and Cameron Spradling, Attorney & Counselor at Law.

The lawsuit alleges that then Principal Gary Gunckel severely beat a 10-year-old boy and a 11-year-old boy with a flattened baseball bat.

“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,” the news release states.

Judge Mike Hogan, on Aug. 5, denied a motion to dismiss parts of the lawsuit that sought to hold Gunckel personally liable for the “physical and mental injuries and damages sustained by the young boys,” the news release states.

Hogan allowed the plaintiffs to file an amended petition.

The petition includes a photo of the flattened bat and a photo of severe bruising on one of the boy’s buttocks, according to the news release.

Photo goes with story
A photo of the flattened baseball bat that former Indianola principal Gary Gunckel is alleged to have used to severely beat two young students.

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.

Gunckel violated Oklahoma law by physically punishing a student who falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

The 11-year-old student was part of an individualized education program at Indianola Public Schools and had been identified on Sept. 6, 2018, as a Section 504 student under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that because the 11-year-old was under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Gunckel was prohibited from using corporal (physical) punishment on him.

“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 lawsuit says that Gunckel “inflicted physical injury” upon the two boys, “terrified” the two boys and “mocked” the two boys.

“Oklahoma is one of only a few remaining states where corporal punishment in schools is still legal,” the news release states. “According to attorneys Mercer and Spradling, there is no place in public schools for corporal punishment and it should be abolished in Oklahoma.”

The former principal was charged last year with two felony counts of child abuse. He turned himself in at the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office after the charges were filed.

Gunckel, who was placed on administrative leave, called the parents to apologize, saying he was “sorry [the student] bruised easily,” and that “they were supposed to hurt so that {the student] would remember not to do what [they] were doing anymore.”

The child abuse charges against Gunckel were ultimately dismissed without prejudice.

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