January 16, 2009 in City

Battery charges dropped against autistic girl, 8

Father of Kootenai Elementary student says family will sue, look for new school
Associated Press
 

SANDPOINT – Battery charges have been dropped against an 8-year-old autistic girl who was arrested and handcuffed following an altercation with her teachers that was apparently sparked when they refused to let her attend a school party.

Bonner County prosecutors dropped the charges against Evelyn Towry on Tuesday.

“We’re definitely going to proceed with a lawsuit,” the girl’s father, Charles Towry, said Thursday. “She’s not a delinquent child. She’s very sweet and loving. She’s definitely not a criminal.”

Towry said his daughter was suspended from Kootenai Elementary School following the episode last week.

Evelyn has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, Towry said. He described his daughter as smart and able to memorize and act out scenes from her favorite movies.

“She’ll start playing the character,” he said. “Instead of being Evelyn, she’s the character. She’s still lucid.”

On the day of the altercation, she was wearing a hooded sweat shirt with ears her mother had sewn on the hood so that it resembled the character Otis, an animated cow in the movie “Barnyard.”

Towry said his daughter was not allowed into a school Christmas party because of the cow sweat shirt. Instead, she was put in a separate classroom away from the party.

School officials said the party and other planned Christmas events had been postponed in December after schools in the district closed several days due to heavy snow.

When Evelyn tried to leave the classroom, instructors told her to stay, and then physically restrained her, causing his daughter to react violently, Towry said.

“She felt that her personal safety was in danger, so she started kicking and flailing,” Towry said. “She was scared. They were holding her down and she panicked.”

He said he’s having a hard time finding out what took place from his daughter.

“She doesn’t even like talking about it,” he said.

The Bonner County Sheriff’s Department did not immediately return a call from the Associated Press on Thursday. The prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

Dick Cvitanich, superintendent for the Lake Pend Oreille School District, told ABC News that police were called because “there was escalating behavior that resulted in what we perceived to be an assault on staff.”

He said it’s not typical for the district to call police to deal with an 8-year-old, and called the episode with Evelyn the culmination of a series of incidents. He said Evelyn could come back to the school.

“From my perspective, there has been a decision made and charges were dropped, and we will welcome the girl back to school,” he said.

Towry, who is to meet with the school board today, said he plans to look for a different school.

“There are other elementary schools around here, and some with better special needs programs, so we’re going keep that option open if we can,” he said told the Bonner County Daily Bee.

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