District Sued Over Abusive Special-Ed Teacher
Parents filed a complaint after their non-verbal 3-year-old son came home with an injury under his left eye. This led to other employees noting that they had seen one teacher physically abuse students. The teacher was later charged with several counts of child abuse and battery against a child. Now, the parents are suing the district for conduct they said the district had cause to know was occurring before the injury to their son.
The woman has been charged with six counts of child abuse. The children were all special-ed students between the ages of three and four. The criminal case has been settled with the defendant pleading guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and being referred to a diversion program. However, the district is still liable for the teacher’s actions.
Parents expressed a lack of faith in the criminal justice system after the sentence was announced. Among the allegations against the district are that they knew of ongoing abuse, never documented the abuse, and failed to act to stop the teacher from further abusing students. The matter was brought to the attention of the district by special education aids who were in the classroom and witnessed the abuse. In some cases, the district concealed evidence of abuse from parents.
Why didn’t the district act?
It’s easier to sweep a scandal under the rug than it is to deal with it. Eventually, however, heads roll. The district must have felt awfully complacent violating the law, because they continually allowed the same teacher access to students even though multiple aids reported the abuse. The principal of the school is accused of failing to investigate the allegations.
The problem for the district is that this has surpassed your typical personal injury lawsuit. Because all of the students were disabled, it falls under the category of a civil rights violation. While personal injury lawsuits against the government are subject to sovereign immunity limits, incidents involving civil rights violations circumvent a number of the lawsuit restrictions placed on citizens filing lawsuits against the government.
Had the district reacted appropriately and fired the woman at the first sign of trouble, it’s unlikely that the plaintiffs would be able to allege civil rights violations since the district acted in accord with the law and stood up for the abused and disabled students. Because that never happened, it’s essentially the same as allowing violence against Black or female students simply because they are Black or female.
So, the district failed to act because it was more comfortable to kick the can down the road, but in the process, they increased their liability, allowed more students to be injured, and are now facing a civil rights lawsuit with personal injury allegations instead of a personal injury lawsuit. In other words, failing to act was a huge mistake.
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