Phillip Wiggins, disabled Allamanda Elementary fourth grader, says he was wrongly disciplined
6:28 PM, Jun 5, 2013
12:24 AM, Jun 6, 2013
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - An Allamanda Elementary fourth grader says he was wrongly suspended for allegations he says are not true.
10-year-old Phillip Wiggins is an albino which makes it hard for him to see. His mother says his disability requires that he wear special sunscreen and glasses.
"He is albino which means he has no pigment in his skin and very little pigment in his eyes," Phillip's mother Lucille Wiggins said.
Wiggins says two weeks ago, while on a school field trip to St. Augustine, he was accused of taking pictures inside a restroom. He says he didn't do it.
"I had my camera in my pocket. It fell out, and when I was about to put it in my pocket some kid pushed me up against the stall. My feet slipped under me and I was trying to pick myself back up. He started laughing and he left the room. The teacher only saw what was happening for two seconds and heard the laughing. She supposed I was trying to take a picture," Phillip Wiggins said.
Six days later, Phillip says he was called into the assistant principal's office.
"They threatened they would call DCF and the police and I was afraid they would take me away from my mom and take me to prison. In my head I was thinking they are wrong. I wasn't going to lie and say I did it. I was keeping my ground," Phillip said.
Phillip says he continued to deny what happened, but the school chose to suspend him.
According to disciplinary documents, a teacher "witnessed Phillip standing near a bathroom stall with his camera over the wall of the stall and in the process of taking a picture of another student using the bathroom."
That's when his mother hired attorney Dena Sisk Foman.
"You can't pull a child in there and accuse them of something this heinous and threaten them with calling DCF and the police before you have investigated the claim or at least called the parent," Foman said.
Foman says the Palm Beach County School District didn't follow disability laws because administrators didn't contact Philip's mom before taking action.
"Because he is disabled, he is entitled to additional due process protections," Foman said.
Phillip's mother says she cried for days when her son was suspended. She says he has never been in trouble before.
"I feel they are doing this because I'm a single parent and they don't think I have the financial means to bring attention to a situation where my son was wronged," Lucille Wiggins said.
The Palm Beach County School District's spokeswoman released this statement: "School Administrators followed proper procedures for student discipline. The School District does not comment on individual incidents due to student confidentially laws."
The Department of Children and Families has also started an investigation. According to a spokeswoman, their investigation started on June 5th. She said they typically being investigations within 24 hours of being notified.
Foman says she is working to get the ten-year-old into a private school next school year.