Horwitz litigates on behalf of CPS students

Chicago Public Schools Students Sue for Bathroom Breaks 

By: Ravi Baichwal         ABC7 Chicago 

August 9, 2007 


The parents of two students expelled from an elementary school on Chicago’s South Side have filed a class-action lawsuit. 

They are suing Chicago Public Schools, administrators and the teacher who they say prevented their children from going to the bathroom at school during an incident in July. 

It appears students had better be ready to learn and hold off on bathroom interruptions in Regine Shield’s class at Cuffe Math and Science Academy on the South Side. A pair of 12-year-old cousins could not do that and were kicked out of class on July 12. They were subsequently suspended for causing a disturbance.  

The students’ parents are claiming damages under three amendments of the Constitution of the United States. 

It seemed cousins Seneca and Keefe Ammons would rather have been outside Thursday than in their lawyer’s office facing the cameras. The boys are academic award-winners who, one month ago, say they found themselves in a situation excruciating even for adults. 

“It was like a burning feeling inside my body, and pain strikes going all over. It was just humiliating, and I couldn’t bear the pain,” said Seneca Ammons. 

On July 12, it is alleged the boys’ teacher, Regina Shields, eliminated the group afternoon bathroom break due to unruliness in the hall. Later, the class was in the library when the boys just had to break away.  

“It doesn’t feel good to do in front of all your classmates. So, I knew that because I had been through that. So, that was in the decision-making moment for me,” said Keefe Ammons. 

Upon returning to the library, Seneca and Keefe were barred from class, and the librarian, a substitute whose identity was not disclsed, reportedly threatened Seneca with a pencil. Subsequently, the school suspended the boys. 

Seneca’s mother had been in a dispute with the school over a sex-education book that had been recommended to her son, which she considered too graphic. She thinks that was the backdrop to her son’s suspension. 

“At this point today, I still haven’t had any kind of help from the board,” said Billie Jean Ammons.  

The lawsuit says the boys’ rights were harmed under the Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibiting undue search and seizure, as well as under the 8th Amendment because it was cruel and unusual punishment. The boys were allegedly denied due process and equal treatment under the law, contrary to the 14th Amendment. 

“Prisoners can use the restroom more than these kids can, that’s our position, that’s our central focus in this case,” said attorney Blake Horwitz. 

“This is not about money. This is about standing up for what is right,” said Billie Jean Ammons. 

Seneca Ammons is attending a different school now. Life at school for Keefe Ammons with his teacher is not much fun. 

“Before all this happened, she was giving me compliments and everything. But now, nothing,” Keefe said. Chicago Public Schools says it is investigation what happened last month and that students should be getting bathroom breaks in the morning, afternoon, and as needed. 

ABC7 Chicago was not able to contact teacher Regina Shields, but the Chicago Teachers Union says it will work to ensure her rights to due process and equal treatment under the law are respected.