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Parents Say Teacher & Aide Tortured Kids

BENICIA, Calif. (CN) - A Benicia High School special ed teacher and her classroom aide are accused of torturing two disabled, speechless students for more than two years. The claim in Solano County case alleges an extensive pattern of abuse so severe it constitutes "continuous torture ... over several years."

The children's parents claim teacher Karla Buckley and her aide Sandra Perez forced one student to climb hills and stairs repeatedly on his surgically pinned broken foot until a second surgery was required to repair the damage.

They allegedly tied him in his wheelchair, inverted it for a long time and forced him to sit in his own feces in full view of the class.

Knowing that the student was acutely sensitive to touch due to his disabilities, Buckley and Perez allegedly covered his hands with glue as a punishment and used his fear of sticky substances to herd him around.

The teacher and aide are said to have put glue, tape and contact paper on his desk to trigger his uncontrollable head- and hand-banging in an area where they had deliberately placed tacks and pushpins so he would be repeatedly punctured.

The plaintiff students are referred to only as DK and MW. According to the complaint, "Defendants repeatedly forced M.W. and D.K. to eat foods that were old, spoiled or disliked while Defendants ate foods that they knew M.W. and D.K. liked or preferred right in front them. Defendants on an almost daily basis tortured D.K. by calling D.K. 'Diablo' or 'devil' and they also put '666' on the calculators D.K. used to work on his math problems."

The defendants allegedly punished the second student for sleeping in class by forcing her to stand on a chair in front of the class, though Buckley and Perez knew she was on medication that made her drowsy. She fell off the chair and was injured at least once, her parents say.

Buckley and Perez eventually were fired, but the parents say a prolonged coverup contributed to the children's psychological damage.

The first child's mother claims that "after several denials, she was finally told that there was an investigation in progress regarding the abuse and that Ms. Buckley and Sandra Perez had been terminated from their positions with SCOE [Solano County Office of Education]. (The first child's mother) was told by Ms. Haddock [SCOE Administrator Mary Ellen Haddock, a defendant] that she should not worry about anything as D.K. was not hurt. She was further told that she should not talk to anyone about the abuse or report the abuse to other parents of children in the classroom."

This plaintiff-mother worked for the Solano County Office of Education, according to the complaint. She says that after she informed the school district that she and her son were represented by counsel, she "was told by her SCOE supervisor Ms. Haddock that she could no longer visit her son's classroom without providing notice and receiving permission from her direct County Office supervisor. These new requirements greatly concerned (the plaintiff), as she had always felt free to make regular visits to D.K.'s classroom in the past. (The plaintiff) is not aware of any other parents who are required to provide notice and receive permission from her direct County Office supervisor in order to visit their children's classrooms. (The plaintiff) has also been unable to find any formal County policy or procedure that would explain the new 'rules' that she must follow. A letter was sent to SCOE's attorney regarding this specific issue on April 30, 2007. To date, no response has been received."The parents also sued other classroom aides and administrators of the Solano County Office of Education, Solano County Board of Education, Benicia Unified School District and Benicia Board of Education, claiming they knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it.

The plaintiffs demand punitive damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, discrimination and civil rights violations. They are represented by Tamara Loughrey and Robert Woelfel of Walnut Creek.

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