Albena McCutcheon


D.C. Public Schools (DCPS)

Damages Sought:


Complaint: Two sentences are all that McCutcheon’s handwritten complaint offers. “My granddaughter got beating by the teacher at school,” she writes. “The teacher name is Palm Parker.” Reached by phone, McCutcheon tells the story in more detail: On May 9, 2003, her granddaughter, Ashley McCutcheon, was disobeying a substitute teacher at Sousa Middle School. The substitute gym teacher had told Ashley to keep her hands off a particular radio, and Ashley, 15, kept touching it. The middle-aged woman picked up a jump rope and whipped the girl over the shoulder. McCutcheon took Ashley to the hospital to treat a broken blood vessel, filled out a police report, and met with school officials, but the substitute never got in trouble. She was transferred. The grandmother asks, “So my child’s supposed to get whupped with a rope, and there’s nothing done about that?”

Quality of Representation: Poor. It doesn’t matter if your sentences are bad; you should still try to explain what happened. If that’s not possible, the next best option is to support your nonexistent narrative with documents. McCutcheon has records from the police and the hospital. Stapling those papers to her complaint would have helped.

Summary Judgment: Get a lawyer. Representing yourself might be a necessity, but that still doesn’t make it a good idea. Such is the beauty of the contingent fee. Case dismissed until plaintiff retains competent counsel. That doesn’t let DCPS off the hook. Defendant is ordered to investigate whether such whupping did occur. If it is found that the substitute gym teacher went corporal, that teacher will be given a choice of punishment: termination, or 10 lashings with an Everlast leather weighted jump rope.