SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A Bay Area school district will pay $8 million to the families of eight kindergartners with special needs whom a teacher allegedly physically, verbally and mentally abused.
Antioch Unified School District announced the settlement on Wednesday. It resolves a federal complaint that parents filed earlier this year against the district and its employees.
The families claimed that kindergarten teacher Theresa Allen-Caulboy held a 5-year-old boy to the ground with her knee and "gouged his face," and pinched another student's nipples and called him a "retard."
Allen-Caulboy was also accused of hitting special education children in the face and mouth with the back of her hand and slamming a child's head into the desk.
"These non-verbal children were afraid to go to school and were returning from school severely emotionally disturbed," said Hinton Alfert and Kahn attorney Peter Alfert, a representative for the families. "These were kids who could not speak and therefore couldn't come home and communicate to their parents what they endured in the classroom. The repeated abuse resulted in profound behavioral changes in some of the children. Even worse, some of the parents only learned of the abuse during the police investigation - over four months after the abuse occurred."
Alfert revealed that Allen-Caulboy resigned in February, a month after multiple complaints with the police and the district to place her on administrative leave. He said she faces six felony counts of child abuse.
The families claimed that the district is responsible for their children's alleged abuse because it allowed a "hostile educational environment" and ignored its legal obligation to report the abuse to law enforcement.
Antioch allegedly knew of Allen-Caulboy's mistreatment of special education students well before it took any action. The families' lawyers said emails obtained under the Public Records Act show multiple incidents of district officers attempting to cover up the abuse and sweep allegations under the rug.
"We were shocked by the teacher's actions, but even more so by the school district's lack of response to the reports that it was receiving about this teacher," attorney Todd Boley, another attorney for the families, said. "These are disabled children who deserve to have a safe classroom and a teacher who does not verbally or physically abuse them. They and their parents depend on the school personnel to protect them."
Larry Evans, one of the plaintiff parents, called the settlement "a warning to every special educator and educational leader that abusing special needs children in the classroom can never be ignored, tolerated, or swept under the rug."
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