The disappearance of a student’s wooden snake at the rural Pope Valley Union Elementary is creating legal ripples in downtown Napa.
A father has filed a claim in Napa County Superior Court alleging the school principal/superintendent, Florence Eaton, disposed of his son’s carved mahogany snake.
“She took property from my 10-year-old son and threw it away. My son cried for two days,” Pope Valley resident Howard “Joe” Mosley said in his small claims action filed May 31.
Mosley is suing Eaton for $500, according to the claim.
The case is now winding its way through the legal system. On July 27, Court Commissioner Michael Williams continued the matter until Sept. 14 after the district’s board of trustees offered mediation services to sort things out, according to court records.
Eaton acknowledged in an interview Friday that she threw the snake away after the boy brought it to school because it was “frightening to the children.”
She kept the toy — which she described as a 2- to 3-foot-long articulated wooden snake — for three weeks at school but “nobody in the family came and picked it up,” Eaton said.
She first placed the snake on top of a file cabinet in her office, she said, “(but) it was frightening to the children.”
Next she placed it in a drawer, then on top of a cupboard outside her office at the K-8 school, she said.
But the snake was too big for the space and one day, as she fetched a book for a student, the snake came tumbling down on top of her, Eaton said. That’s when she disposed of it, she said.
In an Oct. 17 letter to the school board, Mosley said his son had brought the snake to school on Sept. 24 for a movie project. His son told him Eaton took the snake away after it fell out of his backpack, he wrote.
Eaton said she apologized to the student and his parents. The school board met with Mosley in closed session, she said, and a school board member even gave the boy a replacement snake.
In March, Mike Damonte, president of the Pope Valley Union School District board of trustees, wrote a letter to Mosley. “Based on our investigation and consideration of the information you have provided, we have determined that the complaint is insufficient cause for us to take action against Mrs. Eaton at this time,” Damonte wrote.
In his claim, Mosley stated that meetings with Eaton had not resolved anything. Last week, he said he now wants the matter out in the public.
“She picked on the wrong guy this time,” he said.
As of Friday, no mediation date had been set.