Special needs student sues, alleging now-banned restraint technique broke his collarbone

Michael Murphy (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Michael Murphy (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Teddy Gordon (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Teddy Gordon (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Jefferson County Public Schools' security monitor faces another allegation that he injured a student at Breckinridge Metro alternative high school by using a martial arts restraint technique now banned statewide.

"He just picked me up above his head and dropped me to the ground," Johnathan Murphy told a news conference Wednesday.

Murphy is suing Kevin Watson and Breckinridge Metro Principal Stuart "Butch" Cripe. He claims his encounter with Watson on May 13, 2015 broke his left collarbone, and that Cripe neither supervised Watson properly nor sought proper medical attention for Murphy's injuries promptly.

"He (Watson) should lose his job," Murphy said.

Johnathan Murphy, along with his father Michael, and attorneys Teddy Gordon and Andrew Mize, acknowledged that a number of behavioral and medical issues ranging from Autism to Bi-Polar, Attention Deficit and Opposition-Defiant Disorders placed him in Riverview - Breckinridge Metro's "school-within-a school."

Johnathan Murphy admits he had been sent to the Transitional Center - a cool-down or timeout room - after throwing a pencil at one of his teachers.

RELATED ARTICLE: KY public schools to stop use of Aikido Control Training

"He'd been taught through therapy and counseling techniques to calm himself down," Michael Murphy said.

Except his son encountered Watson enroute.
 
"He's like 'I'm just tired of you getting a mouth with teachers, and I've been waiting to do this,'" Johnathan Murphy said.

A JCPS internal investigation reported that Johnathan Murphy had become "physically aggressive" toward Watson, and fell down after Watson grabbed one of his arms to restrain him. Johnathan Murphy stopped resisting only after a Louisville Metro Police officer handcuffed him, the investigation concluded.

"I said 'can I see (security tapes) of what happened," Michael Murphy said. "They told me, 'well, there are no tapes.'"

Absent video or eyewitnesses, Michael Murphy knows it's his son's word against Watson. The incident occurred six months before another Breckinridge Metro student accused Watson of slamming her head into a table, using a martial arts technique dubbed "ACT" or Aikido Control Training.

"It is an extremely dangerous technique to use on a kid," Gordon said. 

Watson received a written reprimand at the time, but was suspended with pay two months ago as part of a JCPS review of such incidents.

The Oct. 20 edition of the Courier Journal reported that JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens had notified Watson in writing that he was to be reinstated at Breckinridge Metro Oct. 17

"As you have already received discipline for your conduct, the district has no choice but to close this review," the newspaper quoted Hargens' letter as saying.

Kentucky's Education Commissioner banned ACT techniques statewide before the 2016-17 school year began. Hargens' is not named in Murphy's lawsuit.

"But if we determine that she reviewed (use of ACT) and allowed it to continue prior to the assault on Johnathan you absolutely know I'll name her," Gordon said.

The suit does not specify monetary damages.
 
"I would just hope that other kids weren't treated this way," Michael Murphy said.

Watson and Cripe have not been reachable for comment

A JCPS spokeswoman told WAVE 3 News that the district does not address specifics alleged in pending court cases.

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