Mother says Seattle schools failing her special needs son 3 years after he was placed in cage

SEATTLE — A woman’s son with special needs “caged” inside a Seattle public school now says the district is dragging its feet in providing the education he needs.

Janelle Williams sued the Seattle school district a year ago after an investigation showed her son was disciplined at View Ridge Elementary School by placing him in a cage.

The principal resigned, but Williams says little has changed.

She says her son still isn’t getting the help he needs, and she believes all of this is because he is Black.

She contends that the school district still owes him a good education, which, she says, the district is not providing.

“Like, what’s wrong?” she remembers asking her son in 2019. “And he told me that he had a bad day. He said he was surrounded by, you know, white men. He was on the floor.”

Her son was just 8 years old when he told his mother the unthinkable, that inside his school, View Ridge Elementary School, he was placed in a cage, the door locked, all in an effort to discipline him.

“So, he said he felt scared, trapped and ultimately intimidating, you know,” Williams said.

Her son, who is autistic and has ADHD, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. So Williams acknowledges that he can be a handful.

The Seattle school district’s own investigation confirmed he was placed in a cage for all of his classmates to see.

The principal was allowed to resign, something that still sticks in Williams’ mind.

“Honestly, I feel like it was a slap on the wrist because they still paid him off his contract, you know what I mean?” Williams said. “And I know, essentially, if it were a teacher of color did that to a European American child, it wouldn’t happen the same kind of repercussions, you know?”

“You know, I’m shocked,” said Seth Rosenberg, the lawyer who sued the district on behalf of Williams and her son. “My own son goes to Seattle public schools.”

Rosenberg’s son is now 11 and at a different Seattle school. Yet they contend the district is still failing him.

“In fact, they recently offered to examine it but not to provide any concrete services,” Rosenberg said.

To examine what? “What his educational needs are, after all this time, as if they wouldn’t have known by now,” he said.

“As parents, you trust them, you know, these staff to help, not only educate your kids,” Williams said, “but to love on them in a nurturing way to where you don’t have to worry about safety issues.”

A spokesperson says they won’t discuss pending litigation. But she says, in part, that the school board and new superintendent, Brent Jones, “have since (2019) revised procedures to further ensure the safety and protection of our most vulnerable students.”