New York Mother Rosemary Powell Sues Principal for Discrimination, Claims Her Daughter Cannot Wear School Uniform Because of Her OCD

| by Courtney Nunes

A Queens mother has sued the New York Department of Education after her daughter with OCD was singled out for not wearing her school uniform.

The child’s mother, Rosemary Powell of Maspeth, claims her 5-year-old daughter cannot wear the uniform due to her obsessive-compulsive disorder, which causes the child to experience “sensory and obsessive rituals relating to her clothing.”

The lawsuit accuses Public School 290 principal Mieasia Harris of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Powell’s daughter, a kindergarten student identified only as “H.H.”, has reportedly suffered from OCD since she was 2 years old.

“Due to her OCD disability, H.H. reacted to the feeling of the clothing on her body and was physically unable to wear the uniform,” reads the lawsuit, filed Friday in Brooklyn Federal Court. “A common manifestation of [OCD] is when certain clothing materials feel uncomfortable on their skin or restrictive on their bodies .… When this occurs, children with OCD refuse to wear the clothing.”

Powell also claims that Harris ignored her request for exemption from the policy that requires all students to wear a green shirt and khaki pants.

Powell states that Harris “singled out H.H. for failing to wear her uniform to school,” removed the student from class, and “embarrassed H.H. by meeting her at the bus stop in the morning to ask, in front of the other students, why she wasn’t wearing the uniform.”

Powell adds that her daughter “repeatedly came home crying about being yelled at by defendant Harris over the uniform.”

When the mother met with the principal to discuss her daughter’s disability, Harris reportedly stated, “If you made your daughter wear her uniform, we would not need this meeting.”

At a second meeting, Powell claims that she provided the principal with medical documentation regarding her daughter’s OCD, to which Harris threatened to have the girl removed from the school if she did not wear her uniform.

The kindergartener was also reportedly kicked out of the school’s Girl Scouts program after Harris complained that the child had worn her uniform less than 10 school days out of 84.

According to Courthouse News, Powell is seeking “an injunction, costs and attorney’s fees and damages for discrimination, violations of her daughter's civil rights, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.”

Sources: Courthouse News Service, New York Daily News