This federal civil rights case was based on abusive treatment including hitting, pinching, verbal epithets, and other humiliations of young special needs kindergarten students
WALNUT CREEK, Calif., Dec. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On December 18, the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) agreed to an 8 million dollar settlement with the families of eight special needs kindergarten children who were physically, verbally and mentally abused by an MNO Grant Elementary kindergarten teacher between August, 2012 and January 2013.
While many of the details concerning the abusive conduct remain covered by a protective order, some facts are publicly available. The abuse of the children by teacher Theresa Allen-Caulboy (aka Theresa Hackerott) included hitting children in the face and mouth with the back of her hand, slamming a child's head into the desk causing bruises, pinning children to the ground with her knee and even pinching children on their nipples.
AUSD placed Allen-Caulboy on administrative leave on January 18, 2013 after parents of the autistic children in her class filed multiple complaints with the police and the District. Allen-Caulboy eventually resigned from her position as a special education teacher at MNO Grant at a Board meeting on February 13. She is currently being criminally prosecuted for six counts of child abuse.
Additional defendants in the civil lawsuit include Principal Mike Green, Assistant Superintendent Keith Rogenski, David Wax, former Director of Special Education for the District and Kai Montgomery former Coordinator of Special Education for the District. The lawsuit alleged these school district employees were aware of serious allegations of physical abuse of students by the teacher. It also alleged that they violated California's mandatory reporting law by not reporting the abuse to law enforcement in a timely manner. In addition to the "failure to report," there was evidence that school district officials took measures to intentionally conceal the abuse from law enforcement.
"These non-verbal children were afraid to go to school and were returning from school severely emotionally disturbed," stated Peter Alfert of Hinton Alfert and Kahn, one of the attorneys who filed the suit on behalf of the families. "These were kids who could not speak and therefore couldn't come home and communicate to their parents what they endured in the classroom. The repeated abuse resulted in profound behavioral changes in some of the children. Even worse, some of the parents only learned of the abuse during the police investigation – over four months after the abuse occurred."
As disturbing as each individual incident is the fact that Allen-Caulboy's mistreatment of special needs students was a problem from the moment she started teaching in the district. Emails obtained through a public records act request reveal multiple instances in late 2012 and early 2013 of AUSD officials attempting to conceal the abuse and sweep allegations under the rug.
"We were shocked by the teacher's actions, but even more so by the school district's lack of response to the reports that it was receiving about this teacher," stated Todd Boley of the Law Office of Todd Boley, also an attorney for the families bringing the lawsuit. "These are disabled children who deserve to have a safe classroom and a teacher who does not verbally or physically abuse them. They and their parents depend on the school personnel to protect them."
The lawsuit alleged that Allen-Caulboy violated the student's constitutional rights by using excessive force, that her classroom was a "hostile educational environment" and that the teacher, principal and other administrative staff failed to report the abuse to law enforcement as is required under the law.
Parent Larry Evans, whose child was abused by Allen-Caulboy, added "Today's settlement is a small measure of justice for my family and all of these children and their families. However, it's also a warning to every educator and educational leader that abusing special needs children in the classroom can never be ignored, tolerated, or swept under the rug."
Ms. Allen Caulboy is facing six felony counts for her actions. The other named parties are still working in education or have retired:
- KEITH ROGENSKI, the Assistant Superintendent/Human Resources remains in his position;
- DAVID WAX, Director of Special Education, retired in May of 2013;
- KAI MONTGOMERY, the Coordinator of Special Education has been appointed Vice Principal at Dallas Ranch Middle School; and,
- MICHAEL GREEN the Principal at the time has been appointed "non-classroom teacher on special assignment.
A similar incident led to a $950,000 settlement in a 2012 lawsuit against the Brentwood Union School District, which adjoins AUSD in eastern Contra Costa County. In that lawsuit, a teacher who had a violent history of physically and emotionally abusing children in her classroom, berated a pre-kindergarten child, pulled him from his chair and kicked him twice as he lay on the ground . Attorneys Alfert and Boley represented the parents of the Brentwood child.
About Hinton Alfert and Kahn LLP: The law firm of Hinton Alfert & Kahn handles serious injury and death cases caused by the wrongful conduct of others. Mr. Alfert has represented the rights of injured clients for over 35 years. 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 LLP