MOSES LAKE, Wash. - A Moses Lake father is taking his fight with the Moses Lake School District over the treatment of his son with special needs public.
Sebastian Gutknecht knows his 7-year-old was dragged by his arms into a room by a staff member at Park Orchard Elementary School, in Moses Lake, on January 7th - he has been given a video that shows it.
What he wants to know now is: why did this happen - and how could this be allowed? In a Facebook post he explains, "I'm taking this public in an effort to get help and advice. There is an ongoing police investigation as well as an internal investigation by the school district. As such, I have been limited in my own personal investigation and can only share what I know so far from my child's perspective, what we saw, and what we can see in the videos."
Gutknecht says on January 7th he received a phone call from Park Orchard Elementary School that his son had been suspended for 2.5 days, and needed to be picked up.
Gutknecht says his son told him that he was told to wear a jacket, but didn't want to do it. His son told a doctor that that "he was dragged by his feet to the office and by his hands through the office into a room that the principal locked him in and wouldn't let him leave."
The principal later said that his son was kicking and screaming. That was the first Gutknecht had heard about how his son says he was treated, and it prompted the Moses Lake father to put in a public records request to see the video footage.
Gutknecht grew emotional describing what it was like for him to see the footage the first time: "I had to sit there, calmly watching my 7-year-old son, who suffers from high anxiety and PTSD, get dragged through the front of the school by someone we trust to care for him. It was horrifying. My wife was fighting back tears."
Gutknecht says his son told him he was dragged through the school in front of other students, who were "laughing at him." The father also belives the school principal also took part in restraining his son, holding the door shut after the child was placed into a small room.
The family understands that their son has had control issues in the past, but say in this instance the district crossed the line. "My wife and I personally feel that this was escalated well beyond the reasonable amount of force necessary especially since my son had expressed verbally that he was willing to comply BEFORE and WHILE being dragged by his limbs through the school," Gutknecht writes.
The video clip that Gutknecht posted on Facebook has been shared nearly 500 times and has hundreds of comments. KHQ has reached out to the Moses Lake School District and are waiting for a call back.
The family wants "Justice for Alex," which includes an apology from the school and for the staff and district "to be held accountable." But Gutknecht says the restraint issue needs to be addressed for all students, not just their son. "I want all children and parents to be able to trust those who provide care to/for them," he writes. "I want my son's horrific story to be the last of it's kind."
KHQ's Noelle Lashley will speak with the family this afternoon.
The Moses Lake School District sent out the following statement:
An investigation is underway regarding an incident that occurred at Park Orchard Elementary School earlier this month. A parent reported their student had been physically moved to the office by staff when de-escalation efforts failed to resolve the situation of extreme student misbehavior. Recently, this incident has been promoted on social media by parties other than the school district.
Due to the sensitive nature of the incident, the Moses Lake School District is unable to provide comment on the specifics. However, we encourage everyone to use discretion in making assumptions of a situation that is communicated through one short video clip obtained through a public records request.
Our top priority and concern is the safety of all of our students and staff. In order for learning to happen, an environment of safety must prevail. Moses Lake School District has taken immediate action by promptly starting an internal investigation involving multiple witness accounts from students, staff, and administration.
As with any situation involving student safety, we are taking every step to ensure all of our students are safe and feel safe. No injuries occurred during the incident, and the investigation remains ongoing.