CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – A Mecklenburg county judge is expected to rule on motions made in court Monday afternoon in the growing discrimination lawsuit against Calvary Church and its child development center director. Several families allege their children were wrongly expelled or asked to leave the school because of perceived or real disabilities.
Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell said he wanted to read over materials from both sides and then make his rulings on whether to dismiss the case, add more families to the lawsuit, or strike some of the allegations and text.
Attorney Joshua Van Kampen, who represents the families, is trying to add two families to the case which would bring the total to six. He says the additional families show a pattern and practice of discrimination at the church.
Calvary attorney Mel Garofalo said the lawsuit should be dismissed because the parents, instead of their children, are named as parties and the complaint fails to provide enough substance concerning claims of fraud and emotional distress.
In the most recent allegation, a mother says her daughter Sophia Kelleher was singled out for behavior and constantly feared her teacher.
”Very clear to us that her little ego relied on what this teacher would say about her every day,” said Sophia’s mom, Serena Kelleher.
She says Sophia’s teacher sent home negative notes and told them wrongly that their daughter must have Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD). She says this was done with the support of director, Pat Collins.
The Kellehers say Sophia’s doctor told them that girl had the behavior of a regular five-year-old. Yet the problems persisted.
“Some days she would just come out of school crying, knowing there was a note in her folder that she didn’t have a good day,” said Kelleher. The negativity, she says, affected their family as the school issues carried over into the home. Sophia now gets counseling.
She’s one of five children whose parents claim Calvary expelled them because of actual or perceived disabilities, from diabetes to developmental delays. Each family shares a similar story. Their child was enrolled at the preschool, the parents say they tried to work with the preschool teachers and director through the issue, and were ultimately told to leave or felt forced out.
Van Kampen says the screening out process is illegal under state protections which require reasonable accommodations be made for children with disabilities. The lawsuit alleges a pattern of screening out children going back more than 20 years.
Kelleher wants the director and church held accountable, for her daughter and other children.
Several months ago, Calvary released this statement when the lawsuit was first filed with two families making claims against the church and preschool director:
“Calvary has a strong reputation in Charlotte regarding its preschool and child development center. More than 800 children are enrolled. The director, Pat Collins, has led the CDC more than 30 years.”
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