Mom sues school district after special needs daughter jumps from window, is left paralyzed
NASHVILLE — A local mom is suing Metro Nashville Public Schools after she claims her mentally-disabled daughter was left unsupervised at school and had an accident that will leave her paralyzed for the rest of her life.
In the lawsuit filed in Davidson Co. on Friday, Virginia Dodson-Stephens asked for at least $300,000 in compensatory damages from the school district, as well as payment for past and future medical expenses stemming from her daughter’s accident.
The lawsuit claims that on Feb. 23, 2018, Dodson-Stephens’ now-adult daughter, Courtlynn Dodson, was unsupervised in a classroom at W.A. Bass Learning Center in Nashville when she jumped out of an unlocked, unsecured window on the second story of the school and fell to the ground below.
Courtlynn was severely injured in the fall, breaking her leg and suffering “a severe and disabling spinal injury” that left her paralyzed — even after life-saving surgery at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital — and will require constant medical care for the rest of her life.
Courtlynn, 18, is considered “mentally disabled” and “legally incompetent,” and has suffered from extensive medical issues since she was hospitalized with Neo-natal Abstinence Syndrome at birth.
She has since been diagnosed with a number of other disorders, including Dissociative Identity Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Major Depressive Affective Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Attention Hyperactivity Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Psychotic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Mood Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Depressive Disorder, Insomnia and Schizoaffective Disorder.
As a by-product of Dissociation Identity Disorder, Courtlynn displays five distinct personalities within herself. She has also suffered from auditory and visual-command hallucinations that cause her to harm herself and others since she was four years old.
Courtlynn was adopted by Dodson-Stevens in 2004 upon termination of her biological parent’s parental rights. She lived with Dodson-Stevens at her home in Rutherford Co. until she was required by court order to move to a Hermitage Hall Residential Treatment Center in 2016.
Her stay there was terminated soon after, and Courtlynn moved around to many other state-run facilities and schools until she was placed at the Wallace Group Home, operated by Youth Villages in Davidson County, and enrolled in the Transitional School Program at W.A. Bass Learning Center in Jan. 2018.
W.A. Bass, a program “designed to assist students who have struggled in other academic settings for academic and behavior issues,” evaluated Courtlynn and considered her a special needs student.
According to the lawsuit, Dodson-Stevens was “firmly against” placing Courtlynn in a public school “because of her concerns about supervision, medication and administration.”
Dodson-Stevens claims that MNPS “knew or should have known” about her daughter’s behavior and academic issues since her enrollment at W.A. Bass, including skipping class, breaking rules of conduct, displaying promiscuous behavior, using drugs at school with other students and reporting she was hearing voices.
Likewise, she says MNPS “knew or should have known” to keep her daughter and other special needs students under constant supervision — especially in a room with an “unlocked and easily-opened” window that “a reasonable person would have taken steps to secure […] knowing these students had access to it,” the lawsuit states. ”
“Defendant MNPS owed Courtlynn Dodson a duty of care to take reasonable actions and precautions to protect her from the unreasonable risk or occurrence while at school,” the lawsuit states. “It is reasonably foreseeable that a child with an extensive history of homicidal and suicidal issues, combined with her recent behavioral incidences at Defendant’s W.A. Bass School, could cause harm to herself and/or others if left unsupervised in a classroom with an unlocked and unsecured window.”
The lawsuit also claims the principal of W.A. Bass prevented a Dept. of Children’s Service’s investigator from speaking to any of her daughter’s teachers while looking into the incident.
News4 reached out to Dodson-Stevens’ legal representation and MNPS for statements regarding the lawsuit but have not heard back.