A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a 10-year-old girl who allegedly was handcuffed and threatened with incarceration days after a minor run-in with another child claims the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office has failed to prevent the unlawful use of excessive force against schoolchildren.
The plaintiff, who is identified only by her initials, E.W., was a fifth-grade student at East Salisbury Elementary School when Rosemary Dolgos, a sheriff’s deputy assigned as a school resource officer, removed her from class, handcuffed her and told her she was “going to jail,” according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
“As a result of the actions of Deputy Dolgos, E.W. has and will continue to suffer emotional and psychological injury and trauma,” the lawsuit states. “Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office maintains, with deliberate indifference, an unlawful policy of imposing unreasonable seizures and excessive force on schoolchildren, and has failed to implement adequate supervision, training and policies to prevent such unlawful acts.”
Paul Wilber, acting county attorney for Wicomico County, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit on Thursday.
About a year ago, E.W. was harassed by a fellow student while riding the bus to school, according to the complaint. The alleged harassment continued for several days, until the two students got into a physical fight on Jan. 6, 2015.
As a result of the incident, the school bus driver told E.W. that she was suspended from riding the bus for three days, the lawsuit states.
However, neither the bus driver nor the school contacted E.W.’s mother, identified as “T.W.” in the lawsuit, to inform her of the fight and the suspension, so E.W. walked to school alone unsupervised for those three days, the suit states.
On Jan. 9, Dolgos removed E.W. from her classroom, told her she was “in trouble” and “going to jail,” and then placed her in handcuffs and left her in the school principal’s office, the lawsuit claims.
The school contacted E.W.’s mother and told her about the fight and said if she did not come to the school to pick up her daughter the school would be “going to the police,” the suit alleges.
When the plaintiff’s mother arrived, she saw bruises around her daughter’s wrists and learned that she had been handcuffed.
“T.W. asked both the Principal and Deputy Dolgos why E.W. was handcuffed. Neither the Principal nor Deputy Dolgos was able to explain the basis or necessity for handcuffing her 10 year old daughter for events which occurred three days prior,” the lawsuit states. “T.W. then took E.W., who was crying and very upset, home from school.”
The lawsuit alleges claims of unreasonable seizure and excessive force, assault and battery, and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against Dolgos, as well as a declaratory judgment that the sheriff’s office violated E.W.’s rights.
Robin R. Cockey, an attorney for E.W., was out of the office on Thursday and unavailable for further comment on the lawsuit. Cockey is with Cockey, Brennan & Maloney P.C. in Salisbury.
The case is E.W. v. Rosemary Dolgos, et al., 1:15-cv-03982-ELH.