Family suing Harrah School District over abuse by former principal
After pleading guilty to child abuse and agreeing to never teach again, a former Harrah principal is facing a lawsuit from the victim’s parents.
Douglas Parker, a former principal of Virginia Smith Elementary School, has been named a defendant in the lawsuit along with the Harrah Board of Education, the Harrah School District and its superintendent, Paul Blessington.
Parker, 58, pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to child abuse, saying he harmed a 6-year-old girl while disciplining her. He admitted to grabbing and pushing the girl at the elementary school March 2, 2018.
“I forcefully put my hands on (the girl),” he wrote in his guilty plea paperwork. “Forcing her to put her nose against the wall causing injury to her nose.”
He received two years of probation and was ordered to take anger management classes. Parker also agreed in his guilty plea to never teach again.
The student’s parents, Marcus and Retha Redunzel, said in their lawsuit that Parker grabbed their daughter by the face and head, dug his “sharp nails” into her neck and aggressively shoved her into a door, all while screaming at her.
The girl had abruptly pulled off her jacket in Parker’s office, causing it to sling toward the principal and strike him, according to the court petition.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Oklahoma County District Court, alleged the incident resulted from the school district’s negligence in hiring and supervising its employees. The Redunzel family is seeking at least $40,000 for violation of due process, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent assault and battery.
The family also requested additional punitive damages for alleged violations of equal protection and the girl’s civil rights.
"(The) defendants failed to maintain an appropriate screening procedure that would identify employees who are prone to abuse of children in deliberate indifference and reckless disregard for (the girl's) due process rights to be free from abuse," the lawsuit states.
Awarded funds would contribute to “past and future counseling and therapy” for the family’s emotional distress from the incident, according to the lawsuit.
Blessington, the school district and the board of education declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The lawsuit claims the school district has had a “long-standing failure to monitor its employees and students to prevent assaults and unsafe environments.”
The family’s attorney, Kelli McCullar, also assisted a mother suing the school district in 2007 over hazing, assaults and sexual harassment against her son by three other students at Harrah High School.
The district reached a settlement with the mother, who alleged the school failed to supervise and protect her son even after he reported a sexual assault in the locker room.
The Redunzels’ petition similarly claimed that the district “failed and refused to protect” the children at Virginia Smith Elementary despite receiving prior complaints of abuse by Parker against employees and students.
"(The) defendants negligently failed to properly review the work history of Defendant Principal Parker and therefore negligently failed to properly evaluate (him) as a teacher for incapacitated children," the lawsuit states.