SHERMAN, Texas (CN) - A special education teacher who stole $300 made a fifth-grade student confess to the theft and the boy was sent to juvenile hall, his grandmother claims in Federal Court.
Among the allegations in the lawsuit are that the teacher was caught on film physically abusing a student while telling him, "There ain't enough Jesus to fix you."
Linda Burleson sued 10 Fannin County school districts and their jointly administered Fannin County Special Education Shared Services Arrangement teacher Adriane Brooke Connerley, and assistant teacher Brent Lawayne Johnson, on behalf of her grandson, C.P.
C.P. attended I.W. Evans Intermediate School in Bonham, 70 miles northeast of Dallas, where the third-grader was put in an alternative education program called STRIDE - Students Taking Responsibility for Individual Discipline and Education. STRIDE is equivalent to special education.
C.P. ran into problems in 2013 when his fifth-grade teacher Connerley made him her scapegoat, his grandma says in the March 18 lawsuit.
"Defendants accused C.P. of stealing $300.00 on the Bonham ISD premises," the complaint states. "C.P. was coerced by defendant Connerley to 'confess' to the crime. C.P. was sentenced to criminal detention in a juvenile facility, and his family was forced to 'reimburse' the victim for $300.00.
"Later, it was learned that defendant Connerley had stolen the money herself, but framed C.P. for the crime."
Burleson claims that Connerley had other problems, which were revealed when a 40-minute video surfaced of her and Johnson taunting and physically abusing a 10-year-old mentally handicapped student.
Bonham Police Chief Mike Bankston told KXII News 12 of Sherman that unbeknown to teachers, a camera had been set up in the classroom after a rash of thefts.
"The young man was slapped more than once and then he was restrained. ... His leg was bent up behind him and also his arms were; he was lying on the ground and his arms were put behind him," Bankston told KXII, a CBS affiliate.
On the video the boy can be heard screaming that he is being hurt as the teachers taunt him and dare him to hit them, according to the Fannin County Leader newspaper.
Connerley tells the boy on the tape, "There ain't enough Jesus to fix you," the paper reported.
In her lawsuit, Burleson claims that Connerley and Johnson often roughed up students in the STRIDE class, including her grandson.
"The unlawful and abusive conduct inflicted upon C.P. was a regular habit and practice of defendants. It was a persistent practice of allowing and encouraging this conduct to occur: a 'culture of restraint' in the STRIDE class," the lawsuit states.
After the tape came out, Connerley and Johnson were fired and charged with the third-degree felony of injury to a child and unlawful restraint.
A jury found Connerley guilty of unlawful restraint and reckless injury to a child, tampering with a witness, and theft in October 2014. She was sentenced to 4 years probation and fined $1,200, the Fannin County Leader reported.
Connerley is married to the police chief of Ector, Texas, according to KXII.
Johnson was convicted of felony unlawful restraint of a child, the lawsuit states.
Burleson and C.P. seek punitive damages for violations of civil rights, the Individuals with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. They also make state law claims of negligence, assault, conspiracy and defamation.
They are represented by Anthony O'Hanlon of Sherman.
Bonham ISD Superintendent Marvin Beaty told Courthouse News that the theft of which Connerley was convicted was recorded, unlike the theft alleged in the lawsuit.
"These are two completely different things. The theft she was convicted of was caught on video, so the theft cited in the lawsuit, I don't have any knowledge about the accuracy of that," Beaty said.
"I'm not saying it's not true, I'm just telling you I have no knowledge of it. So I haven't seen any evidence to support that. Was Mrs. Connerley convicted of theft? Absolutely. It was on video. That was, I believe, $18, not the $300 that was alleged."
Beaty said he found it interesting that Burleson is making these allegations two years after the alleged theft, and that no criminal complaint was filed against Connerley.Follow @@cam_langford
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