WALNUT CREEK, Calif., Jan. 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- On January 22, the Brentwood Union School District (BUSD) agreed to pay $8 million to the families of eight special needs pre-kindergarten students who were physically and verbally abused by their teacher. The students had been placed with teacher Dina Holder over a four year period despite repeated complaints by parents and staff concerning her mistreatment of the children in her care. This settlement resolves the latest in a series of lawsuits alleging similar abuse of special needs children in Contra Costa County.
In January, 2013 BUSD settled a case filed by the family of a student Holder physically assaulted in front of several classroom aides. That case settled for $950,000 and led the removal of Holder from the classroom.
Last month, Antioch Unified School District agreed to pay $8 million dollars to the families of eight special needs students in that district based on the shocking physical and verbal abuse they endured at the hands of Theresa Allen-Caulboy, a kindergarten teacher who also taught non-verbal special needs children.
"In this case, the Brentwood Union School District chose to ignore multiple reports of abuse against vulnerable children and allowed a teacher with violent history to continue teaching special needs children who could not speak," said the families' attorney Peter Alfert of Hinton Alfert & Kahn LLP. "They reassigned this teacher to another school, again put her in charge of special needs children who could not speak and gave no warning to their parents. Because of their disabilities, these children could not come home and tell their parents what was happening to them in the classroom," he added.
BUSD was aware of at least three prior physical assaults by teacher Dina Holder on her students when they reassigned the teacher from Loma Vista Elementary to neighboring Krey Elementary. The District allowed Holder to continue teaching children at Krey even though a condition of her probation was that she was not to be alone with children. Even more disconcerting is that, according to the State of California, she did not hold the required credentials to teach autistic children.
Prior to her reassignment, Dina Holder had a long history of endangering children in her care and Brentwood Union School District had a long history of ignoring complaints about the teacher made by the school's psychologist, instructional aides in the classroom, and the parents of special needs children in her care.
Once the abuse was reported to the police by parents of one of the children injured by Holder, the Contra Costa County district attorney filed charges against Ms. Holder. She later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor child abuse, and her teaching credentials were eventually revoked by the State.
"This abuse towards these vulnerable children could have been prevented, but there was a systematic failure of school district employees to comply with their mandatory duty to report suspected child abuse. The district and its employees failed in their obligations as mandatory reporters to report Holder's actions to the police. The school and the district failed these children and their parents by not ensuring classrooms were safe," said the families' attorney Todd Boley.
The children all exhibited behavioral changes during their time in Holder's classroom but at the time, their parents had no idea what was causing the behavior.
"The school district was beyond negligent in protecting some of our most vulnerable children," added Alfert.
Many of the children have since been diagnosed with serious psychological injuries as a result of the devastating abuse. While the families of these children are relieved to know that the school district has been held accountable and Ms. Holder will no longer teach, they believe more needs to be done to ensure that schools are a safe place for special needs children who are often unable to defend themselves.
About Hinton Alfert & Kahn LLP: The law firm of Hinton Alfert & Kahn LLP handles serious injury and death cases caused by the wrongful conduct of others. The reputation of the firm is built upon the successful results its attorneys have obtained for clients. More information is available at hintonalfert.com.
About the Law Office of Todd Boley: The Law Office of Todd Boley is a practice that emphasizes civil rights and complex liability actions. Mr. Boley draws on over 35 years of experience representing individuals and governmental agencies. More information is available at boleylaw.com.
SOURCE Hinton, Alfert and Kahn and the Law Office of Todd Boley