Moms Blame Texas Teachers for Fight Club

     HOUSTON (CN) – A third-grade teacher in Texas made 12 girls in her class viciously beat their classmate to punish her for getting some potato chips from her friend, the girl’s mother claims in Federal Court.
     Teachers at A.G. Hilliard Elementary School in Houston had a de facto motto: “Children who don’t understand need to be beaten,” according to the March 16 lawsuit.
     Teachers enlisted their young students to inflict pain on disruptive classmates, a policy that traumatized four students, and led some of them to start taking medication for anxiety and depression, the kids’ mothers claim.
     On behalf of their children, Latunda Corbin, Sharman Jones and Yolanda Anderson on Monday sued North Forest Independent School District and former A.G. Hilliard Elementary School Principal Victor Nash.
     North Forest Independent School District was closed in July 2013 and absorbed into Houston Independent School District. Houston ISD kept open seven North Forest ISD schools, and A.G. Hilliard Elementary was one of them, a school district employee said.
     The lawsuit focuses a harsh spotlight on one teacher: Nichole Hines.
     Neither Hines nor any of the teachers mentioned in the 19-page lawsuit are named as defendants.
     “Hines was known to be one of the worst offenders. She would leave the student who had misbehaved in the classroom with students of the same gender, and would leave the classroom with the rest of the class to go to the bathroom while the student was ‘rushed’ and the beating took place,” the complaint states.
     “These children knew that if they did not listen to Hines and hit the other student, they in turn would be next to be beat up. She also threatened the students by stating that if anyone told, they too would be punished.”
     The mothers say other teachers at the school sent their problem students to Hines’ third-grade class, where Hines would see to it they were beaten.
     Corbin claims that Hines and two other teachers, Ms. Lundy and Ms. Katrina Burnside, often made her third-grade son B.R. fight other students during recess.
     “On one occasion Ms. Lundy told B.R. to fight another student and when B.R. refused, she punched him in the eye, causing permanent damage,” the lawsuit states.
     Corbin says that due to the abuse B.R.’s grades dropped and he began acting out at school and becoming aggressive at home. Corbin says she was forced to enroll her son in mental health treatment.
     Sharman Jones says her two children had similar experiences at the school.
     Hines made Jones’s son C.H. square off against another boy in a school hallway, Jones says, even though C.H. was not in her class.
     “Hines removed C.H from his class to the hallway where she had her class assembled (roughly 20 students). She told him that he must fight a boy who had struck his sister, who was in Ms. Hines’s class. Despite his protests, Ms. Hines forced these two to fight,” the lawsuit states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     C.H.’s sister S.H. was in Hines’ class and she got it worse than he did, their mother says.
     Jones says Hines got mad at S.H. for getting some potato chips from a classmate after Hines’ told her she couldn’t buy any chips.
     “Hines said to her, ‘Since you bought some potato chips anyway, it is your turn to get jumped,'” the complaint states.
     “She directed the boys out of the classroom and left all the girls in the room. The girls, approximately twelve in number, then jumped S.H. At Ms. Hines’ direction, they pulled her hair, punched her, knocked her to the floor, and kicked her.
     “On another occasion, S.H. reported that Hines had her beat up by some girls and when it was over, Hines ‘high-fived’ everyone.”
     Jones says both her children were traumatized by this and are taking medication for depression and anxiety.
     Yolanda Anderson says Hines forced her son L.A. II, then a third-grader at the school, and other students, to pick up chairs after an event in the gym and throw them at a student who had to keep his eyes shut.
     Hines also made L.A. fight a bigger boy named T., Anderson says.
     “As L.A.II tells it, ‘The teacher had me close my eyes, real tight. Then she pushed T. into me and he began to hit me in the back of my head. Made me bleed a little bit in the back of my head. We had to fight until the next class came into the gym. She made them (the other kids) cuss us out and stuff. They called us fat ass, stupid motherfucker, and stuff like that. Then we went out the back door and back to our class,” the lawsuit states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     After the fight, L.A.’s behavior deteriorated and his grades dropped so badly he was designated as “emotionally disturbed,” which qualified him for special education classes, his mother says.
     He too had to seek counseling and start taking medication and his struggles rubbed off on his mom, she says.
     “As a result of these frequent calls from the school, time and energy spent addressing her son’s mental health needs, and her own ensuing anxiety and depression, Ms. Anderson herself was forced to resign her position of 13 years to attend the needs of her family,” Anderson says.
     All the mothers say they told principal Victor Nash and other administrators they wanted them to file criminal charges against Hines.
     “The school declined, saying that the school police had jurisdiction over case,” the women say.
     The mothers say they also filed reports with the Houston Police Department and a Harris County Constable’s Office, which were turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, but no charges were filed.
     In October 2103, Theresa Michael sued North Forest Independent School District, A.G. Hilliard Elementary School, Hines, Burnside and Nash, claiming Hines had a pack of girls viciously beat her mentally handicapped first-grade daughter , J.M.
     That case was settled in August 2014. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ordered the insurers of Victor Nash and North Forest ISD to pay $40,000 into a trust fund for J.M.
     Hines and Burnside were dismissed from the lawsuit in March 2014 after Michael and J.M. “abandoned their claims” against the teachers, court records show.
     Both lawsuits were filed by Martin Cirkiel of Round Rock.
     Cirkiel said that if his clients win a settlement in the new case he thinks North Forest ISD’s insurer at the time of the events would be liable and not Houston ISD, even though it took over North Forest.
     He called the goal of the new lawsuit “pretty simple” in an interview.
     “I don’t think anybody would want their kids treated that way. A lot of these kids had issues to begin with. Some of them had major issues that occurred because of what they did, not only by being victims but sometimes by being perpetrators. This stuff stays with these kids. Our goal is to get them enough money to pay for some counseling and pay for some therapy and help them move on in life,” he said.
     Nash is no longer the principal of Hilliard Elementary and Hines and Burnside don’t work there either, according to a search of the school’s website, checked Tuesday.
     The families seek damages for state-created dangers, state action, constitutional violations, disability discrimination, medical expenses, mental anguish, pain and suffering and other charges.

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