All parents have a right to trust that when they send their child to school, the teachers, administrators and employees will provide a safe learning environment.
When this does not happen, there are a number of legal theories upon which parents can pursue court action against the district. Those include premises liability law, which requires the city/school to keep the property in safe condition. It can also include some situations in which the child is assaulted, bullied or falls ill and the school fails to control the situation or come to the aid of the student.
A recent lawsuit out of Queens alleges a special education teacher reportedly punched a pupil with a closed fist for allegedly cheating on a test. The 36-year-old teacher has since been arrested on charges of felony assault, harassment and endangering the welfare of a child. A second mother has come forward as well, alleging the same teacher “terrorized” her daughter earlier in the school year. She too has filed a lawsuit.
The education lawsuit filed by the first mother alleges her 10-year-old autistic son has been severely traumatized by what happened to him at Public School 118. Plaintiff contends the Queens student was falsely accused by the teacher of cheating on a test. The teacher then allegedly cursed at the child before punching him repeatedly about the face and body.
The cursing, the mother claims, is a daily thing, though it’s unclear how many times prior the teacher may have struck the students.
A criminal investigation was launched after allegations were made, and evidence was obtained in the form of an audio recording made by a fellow special needs student. The teacher reportedly yells at the student, demanding to know why he shouldn’t “Whip your ass.” The sounds of a scuffle are then heard, and the child is heard screaming and pleading, “Please, no, no, no.”
Finally, a female assistant teacher, who was reportedly in the classroom at the time, stepped in, pulling the teacher off the student. The teacher is then heard on the audio tape saying,”I would have whopped your ass even worse than that.”
All of this occurred in front of his other special needs classmates, who were reportedly traumatized by the incident.
The child’s mother is seeking $10 million in damages from the city for failure to provide her son with a safe environment and also for failing to conduct a thorough background check prior to hiring the educator, who has been working at the district for eight years.
Another mother whose special needs daughter was also a student of this teacher has filed a lawsuit as well. The teacher reportedly accused her also of cheating on a test. He then picked up the desk – with her in it – and placed her in the corner, cursing at her and telling her to stay there.
As all of this is emerging, even more parents are coming forward with evidence of alleged abuse involving this same teacher. While the allegations are being investigating by the Queens District Attorney’s office, there may also be additional civil lawsuits filed.
The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides education litigation representation in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.
Family of special education student punched by Queens teacher to sue city, Education Department for $10 million, Feb. 11, 2015, By Caitline Nolan, Corky Siemaszko, New York Daily News
More Blog Entries:
New York Special Education Advocates Help Resolve Disputes, Sept. 29, 2014, New York City Education Lawyer Blog