Student’s parents sue district, claiming PE teacher mocked him and forced exercise
A middle school student and his father have sued the Laguna Beach Unified School District, claiming a physical education teacher mocked the boy for being overweight and forced him to participate in exercise despite doctors’ notes excusing the boy from the class.
According to the lawsuit, filed March 10 in Orange County Superior Court, a Thurston Middle School teacher singled out Robby Ibelle’s 14-year-old son partially because he was “heavyset.”
The suit claims that the teacher and other staff ignored times when the boy was suffering from ailments like a broken ankle or chronic headaches and nevertheless made him take part in activities such as tug-of-war and a mile run.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the school district for discrimination, civil rights violations, emotional distress and other complaints.
A spokeswoman for the school district said officials have not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit and declined to comment.
According to the suit, Ibelle’s son suffered two injuries around the time of the 2014-15 school year.
In August 2014, he was playing football outside school and was hit multiple times in the head and neck, according to the lawsuit. Since then, the boy has suffered from “unrelenting headaches,” blackouts and stomach pain from a neurological condition, according to court documents.
In addition, the suit claims that during physical education in January 2015, Ibelle’s son twisted an ankle and later discovered that it was actually broken.
This prompted the boy’s parents to get a doctor’s note restricting their son from sports and other physical activity for about a month, but, according to the lawsuit, Thurston staff ignored this instruction.
The parents also wrote multiple notes and emails of their own in February and March 2015 asking that their son be excused from physical education class, but to no avail, according to the lawsuit.
Instead, the boy claims that the teacher instructed him to do extra exercise and at times made fun of him in front of other students.
The lawsuit alleges the teacher also let other students harass Ibelle’s son, calling him names like “fat,” “big boobs” and “squishy.”
At one point in physical education class, Ibelle’s son was told to participate in a mile-long run, according to the lawsuit. When he couldn’t complete the course and tried walking instead, the boy’s teacher “allowed a group of students to encircle, laugh, taunt and call [him] names as a consequence of not running but walking the mile,” the lawsuit states.
Near the end of last April, Ibelle’s parents pulled their son out of Thurston “due to his deteriorating emotional and mental state and his severe physical and mental injuries resulting from discrimination, bullying, harassment and ongoing misconduct at school,” according to the lawsuit.
Lawyers representing Ibelle and his son declined to talk about the lawsuit.