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Parents sue district over face paint removal

The parents of two Timberlake Junior High students are suing the Lakeland School District, saying the principal at the Spirit Lake school burned their children’s faces with chemicals when trying to remove face paint.

Principal Georgeanne Griffith used rubbing alcohol, industrial cleaner, fingernail polish remover and an unknown ointment to wipe paint off the faces of Sara DeHart and Lauren Essman, according to court documents filed Aug. 3 in District Court. The substances burned both girls’ faces, and Essman also experienced swelling, abrasions, and peeling, according to the suit.

The girls painted their faces as part of spirit week activities but failed to remove the paint after Griffith ordered all students to do so, according to the suit. Griffith took the girls to her office and applied the ointments, the suit says, and neither girl’s parents were contacted.

The girls’ mothers, Susan DeHart and Lisa Essman, are seeking at least $50,000 plus attorney fees. Their attorney, Melanie Baillie, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Ron Schmidt, assistant superintendent of the Lakeland district, said he couldn’t comment on the case.

“It’s been turned over to our insurance company and legal counsel. That’s about all I can say,” Schmidt said.