While every child faces fears and experiences anxiety that they must overcome as they mature, children on the autism spectrum and others with special needs can find the world on a daily basis to be a confusing, threatening, and chaotic place. This heightens the fears and anxieties special needs children perceive and requires a nurturing, compassionate response from those entrusted with their care.Schools with special needs students must train their staff specifically on the issues and challenges special needs students face, and supervise staff to ensure they are interacting with students in an appropriate and professional manner.
While not a guarantee of proper behavior, this training is a core component for teachers possessing special education certificates. However, it is common and necessary for other adults to assist special education teachers in the classroom. Many schools provide these aides limited or no training in the education and care of special needs students, and poorly supervise them.
Recent news reports, sadly, highlight the imperative that special education teacher’s aides be properly trained and supervised at all times:
· A teacher’s aide at the Tobinworld School in Antioch, California,for special needs students was arrested on felony child abuse charges after a video was released showing the aide punching or slapping a 9-year old boy;
· A teacher’s aide at the YCS George Washington School in Hackensack, New Jersey, for children with behavorial, emotional, and social challenges was arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and assault for allegedly pushing a 13-year old into a desk, causing him to fall, and then slammed the child to the floor; and
· A teacher’s aide at a school in Long Island, New York, was arrested for allegedly abusing a 9-year physically disabled girl.
Parents and guardians of an abused student should promptly report any signs of abuse to school administrators and/or their local police department. Warning signs of abuse include: (1) unexplained injuries, (2) changes in behavior, (3) regression, (4) fear of school, (5) changes in eating or sleeping, and/or (6) changes in performance or attendance in school.
Parents and guardians may also turn to the civil courts and seek justice by filing a lawsuit against the teacher or teacher’s aide and school. Potential legal claims that may be brought include assault, battery, child abuse, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, training, and negligent failure to recognize and report child abuse.
To demonstrate child abuse, it is not necessary that the adult directly assault the child. Willfully causing a child to suffer grave harm or permitting child under his or her care or custody to be placed in a situation in which the child’s health is endangered can constitute child abuse.
School administrators must exercise care in protecting all students from harm and properly supervise teachers and staff.
Liability may be found against the school district if administrators knew or had reason to know that the teacher or aide assaulted the child and failed to act. Many states, including California, extend liability if administrators knew or had reason to know that the teacher or aide was not trained and lacked the ability to care for special education children.
Obtaining Justice for Victims of Child Abuse At School
The Dolan Law Firm represents parents and guardians of children who suffered abuse at their school. We understand the sensitive nature of these cases and work closely with our clients to obtain just compensation and require the school districts to undertake action to prevent other children from being abused in the future.
Our litigation experience includes successfully resolving cases brought against special education teachers and aides in the San Francisco Bay Area for abusing autistic and special education students and against the schools and school districts that employed these individuals for failing to properly train and supervise them and neglecting to recognize and report the child abuse.
This litigation includes a widely-publicized abuse case against the Redwood City Elementary School District in San Mateo County that resulted in a significant settlement for our clients. We also successfully resolved a suit involving the sexual assault of a student charging the school district was negligent in safeguarding the safety of students at the school.
Please contact us for a free, no obligation, and confidential review of your case or call us at 415-636-8160.