NASHVILLE (CN) – The family of a girl with Down syndrome says her elementary teacher called her a “little shit,” punished by sticking something sharp under her fingernail and made her smell her own feces when she had an accident. The teacher force-fed children until they threw up, strapped them to toilets for long periods and physically and verbally abused them, according to the federal complaint – one of three filed against the teacher and the Sumner County Board of Education.
Jane Doe’s family says they were never told about the abuses until a criminal investigation began, even though the Sumner County Board of Education had a stack of complaints against the special-needs teacher, Donna Weidenbenner.
Weidenbenner taught the plaintiffs’ daughter for the 2008-2009 school year and has been indicted for her abuses, the family says. An assistant teacher reported concerns about Weidenbenner but was told to “mind her own business” because Weidenbenner was the “expert,” according to the complaint.
The school knew about the abuses, and assistant teachers knew, but no one told girl’s parents, the Does say. Two other families have sued the school board and Weidenbenner, alleging she shoved a boy who could not speak or hear without tubes 3 feet into a bookshelf, and grabbed a similarly disabled girl by the jaw and squeezed her face.
Weidenbenner and the school board are accused of depriving the children and their parents of their civil rights and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. All three families are represented by lead counsel Andy Allman with Kelly, Kelly and Allman of Hendersonville.