Educator sues Edmonton Catholic over alleged violent incident with student

An educational assistant who says a 19-year-old student repeatedly slammed her head into a desk is suing the Edmonton Catholic school board.

In a statement of claim filed on Sept. 14, 2017, Julie King accuses the administration of failing to inform her of the student’s documented behavioural problems or taking appropriate action to ensure her safety.

King, 50, said she continues to suffer from a brain injury sustained in the incident at Mother Margaret Mary Catholic School on Nov. 30, 2015.

“All of a sudden I just felt my head was just slamming down like a jackhammer,” said King, who estimated the incident lasted up to two minutes.

“I did believe that I was going to die.”

She is seeking at least $440,000 for pain and suffering, rehabilitation and lost wages. The allegations have not been proven in court. 

The school and principal, as well as the student, Madison Dyck, and his parents Michael Dyck and Jacqueline Hutchison, are also named in the lawsuit.

Both the board and family have declined comment. In separate statements of defence, the administration and family deny all allegations. 

The board said any loss or injury suffered was due to King’s failure to protect herself, to determine the student posed a risk or to alert the defendants.

According to the statement of claim, Dyck had previously warned King he could “physically attack” her. She said she had asked to be transferred.

Just before the incident, King and the student were verbally harassed by the young man’s mother, who was supposed to be banned from the school because she exacerbated his behavioural issues, the lawsuit says. 

King said she and the student were alone, with the door locked to avoid disruptions as he wrote a test. Suddenly she was grabbed by her hair, repeatedly slammed into a table, then struck in the head for about a minute, King said.

“I was just praying that somebody would see or hear something,” said King, adding that the incident only stopped when a colleague intervened and the student was restrained. 

King said she was asked by police and school officials if she wanted to press charges but chose not to. 

“I said, I don’t know what good that will do or what it will solve,” King said. “I knew he was going through enough in his own heart.”

‘I feel buzzed drunk’

King said she has racked up numerous expenses to assess her condition and access treatment not covered by insurance as she struggles with double vision, hearing sensitivity and memory loss.

“I could feel my brain, so I could feel it change — literally it changed in 10 seconds,” King said in an interview in which she sometimes forgot the question mid-thought. “I feel like 20 per cent of me is gone and I can’t get it back. I feel buzzed drunk every second of every waking minute.”

I could feel my brain so I could feel it change — literally it changed in 10 seconds– Julie King

King, who is now working part-time in a kindergarten class, said she’s telling her story in the hope that protocol improves to better protect staff from student violence. 

‘No prior warning’

In its statement of defence, the board says if King suffered any injuries they were minor and have long since healed or were sustained in accidents that pre-date the incident.

“These defendants state that they took all reasonable and proper actions to ensure that [King] was reasonably safe and not placed in any risk of physical harm,” the document states.

“These defendants also state that they had no prior warning that [the student] posed a safety risk or was at risk of perpetrating a physical assault.” 

In a separate statement of defence filed on June 15, 2018, the family denied the student has behavioural problems and said if physical contact occurred, it was entirely involuntary and due to a medical condition. The family said his cerebral palsy condition is characterized by athetosis, where abnormal muscle contractions cause involuntary writhing, which can be exacerbated by stress.

‘[King and the co-defendants] were specifically aware of [his] athetosis and seizures related to this condition,” the document said.

“It was [King] that made insensitive comments about [his] condition prior to his test. If anything caused [the student] to be agitated, it was the conduct of [King].”

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