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Eight Million Dollar Settlements!
Largest Ever Reported!
Child Abuse by School Staff
New Case Settlement! A Second Eight Million Dollar Settlement – Abuse of Special Needs Preschoolers
Two Contra Costa, CA School Districts will pay nearly $17 Million to local families in one year.
January 22, 2014: 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.
Attorney Peter Alfert of Hinton Alfert Kahn LLP, who represented the families, said –
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.
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.
The Complaint filed in the U. S. District Court will be posted on our pleadings page.
School District Aware of Prior Assaults
Teacher Dina Holder had a long history of endangering children. Aware of prior physical assaults by the teacher, BUSD ignored complaints from the school’s psychologist, instructional aides in the classroom, and parents.
Unjustified and Unreasonable Force
Filed in August, the federal lawsuit names the instructor, Dina Holder, as well as former Loma Vista Elementary Principal Lauri James, former Superintendent Merrill Grant, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Margaret Kruse, Director of Special Education Margo Olson, and former Director of Special Education Jean Anthony .
The suit claimed that Holder violated the children’s Constitutional rights by using ‘unjustified and unreasonable force’ against them.
Failure of Administrators to Take Abuse Reports Seriously
Holder was at the center of an earlier lawsuit that the district settled in December 2012 for $950,000. In 2010, she kicked a nonverbal autistic 5-year-old boy and called him a foul name when he did not follow her instructions.
However, when district officials learned of the other abuse accusations, instead of terminating her, they transferred Holder to Krey Elementary, where the abuse accusations continued. Administrators never told the parents of Holder’s other students at Loma Vista and Krey about the criminal charges, the complaint asserts.
Eight Million Dollar Settlement – Abuse by Special Ed Teacher! Largest Settlement Ever!
Evans v. Antioch Unified School District, US District Court, California
The Antioch School District announced [ December 18, 2013] it will pay $8 million to the families of eight kindergarten special education students over a teacher child abuse case and the failure of administrators to report abuse suspicions to the proper authorities.
Parents of the victims alleged that the special education teacher slapped, pinched, and verbally abused her students and school administrators failed to report abuse suspicions to the authorities. Some of the students were nonverbal children with autism in a Kindergarten class. The parents sued the district and five current and former employees.
Warning Signs Ignored
Even though there were warning signs. internal district documents suggest, Antioch district officials tried to keep the matter under wraps.
The district documents show that knowledge of Allen-Caulboy’s behavior was widespread among school employees.
Documents show the Antioch district’s own investigation of the concerns about teacher Theresa Allen-Caulboy ramped up only after this newspaper [Contra Costa Times] first reported on a similar abuse situation in Brentwood, where a convicted child abuser was allowed to continue teaching special needs students. A classroom aide to Allen-Caulboy cited the newspaper report as her impetus for reporting the abuse allegations.
‘It’s the same story that happened in Brentwood,’ said attorney Peter Alfert, who represents the three families suing the district. ‘They cover up until they can’t cover up any more.’
Allegations against the teacher include:
using the back of her hand to hit a child in the mouth
yelling at nonverbal students at close range
pinching a 7-year-old autistic child’s nipple to get him to follow instructions
using derogatory terms such as retard
picking a child’s nose and forcing him to eat it
driving her knee into a child’s back as she restrained him on the ground
Ms. Allen-Caulboy began teaching in August 2011 and school staff expressed the first concerns in September 2012. In December of 2012, a mother complains. In January 2013 other school staff and parents complain, a report is filed with Child Protective Services, the school begins an internal investigation, and the teacher was placed on leave.
Ms. Allen-Caulboy is no longer a District employee, and has not been in a District classroom since January 18, 2013.
Detailed timeline is here.
School Asks Parent Not to Report
Not only did the school fail to report the allegations to the police or child protective services, they asked a parent not to call police when she called the school with her concerns in December 2012.
Two weeks after her autistic son came home with bruises on his neck and face, allegedly at the hands of his teacher, a frustrated Michele Smith complained to Antioch’s top two special education administrators.
She says she received a stunning response: They asked her not to call police .
‘They just wanted to sweep it under the carpet,’ Smith said in an interview.
Failure of Mandated Reporting by School
All school employees who work with children are ‘mandated reporters’ with a legal duty to report any suspicions of abuse to police or Child Protective Services immediately by phone, and then through a written report within 36 hours.
The district, Principal Michael Green, Teacher Allen-Caulboy, Special Education Director David Wax, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Keith Rogenski and Special Education Coordinator Kai Montgomery were all named in an April civil suit that alleges Allen-Caulboy slapped, pinched and verbally abused three autistic students, and school officials failed to quickly report the accusations to police as the law requires.
Former principal of Antioch’s Mno Grant Elementary was reassigned to a teaching position.
Ongoing Investigation of Other School Staff – Failure to Report!
Allen-Caulboy resigned from her teaching post in February and pleads not guilty to physically abusing young students.
There is an ongoing investigation into reports that school district employees witnessed some of the abuse and failed to contact police as mandated by law.
Prosecutors would not say whether there are charges pending against any school district employees who allegedly witnessed or received complaints from parents but did not go to police as mandated by law, before parents sparked the police investigation in January.
All aspects of this case are still being investigated, said senior Deputy District Attorney Nancy Georgiou.
Note: On January 3, 2014, Pete Wright called Senior Deputy District Attorney Nancy Georgiou hoping to learn if her investigation has been completed in terms of charges against other school district staff for failure to report the child abuse. She was not available so a message was left on her voicemail. Then Pete sent her an email. Nothing heard at the time this article was posted to Wrightslaw.
Update: Tuesday evening, January 7, 2014 – After the online newsletter about this case emailed to our subscribers, Pete received an email from Nancy Georgiou as follows: “I apologize for the delayed response; I was away from the office when you left a voice mail and sent your email. No, the school officials have not been criminally charged for failure to report. The teacher’s criminal case is proceeding.”
Update: – Second email from Deputy District Attorney Georgiou “The staff is not being criminally charged with failure to report.”
The parents are represented by Peter Alfert of Hinton, Alfert & Kahn located in Walnut Creek, CA. Peter Alfert recently settled a similar case against the Brentwood School District for $950,000.00!
Last revised: 02/06/14