The family of a woman with cerebral palsy says her former teacher, among others, abused and neglected her for years while she was a student, and they are now suing the school district.
A lawsuit filed against Washtenaw Intermediate School District, a teacher, principal and two teacher’s aides, outlines ‘repetitive instances of abuse’ suffered by Rosa Smith, a now 26-year-old woman with cerebral palsy.
According to WFXG, Smith’s impairments make her unable to communicate verbally. Her physical impairments include the inability to move her hands and arms.
The woman endured physical, emotional and psychological harm at the hands of the defendants, who allegedly spilled scalding hot coffee on her, locked her in the bathroom for extended periods of time and slapped her across the face, according to the allegations in the lawsuit.
‘These weren’t accidents, and there was abuse going on,’ attorney Jonathan Marko said during a press conference with Smith’s family.
The suit names the woman’s former teacher, Nesa Johnson, and it says she forcefully taped Smith’s mouth shut in March of 2016 because she was ‘making noises.’
The teacher allegedly texted Smith’s mother a photo of the woman with her mouth taped saying ‘Help. She won’t be quiet!!!!’
‘Taping a special-needs student’s mouth shut is appalling in-and-of-itself, but was especially torturous for Rosa, who is physically unable to remove the tape, has trouble breathing and clearing her throat, and breathes out of her mouth,’ the lawsuit states.
‘Defendant Johnson’s actions put Rosa’s life in jeopardy. Furthermore, hair and skin were missing from the area of Rosa’s face where Johnson removed the tape,’ the lawsuit added.
The lawsuit also claims staff members ‘intentionally over-medicated Rosa to mollify, pacify and sedate her instead of providing the educational services to which she had a federal right.’
In February this year, a staff member allegedly slapped Smith in the face several times ‘in plain view’ of other students and faculty members, the lawsuit alleges.
‘They blamed Rosa for scalding hot coffee being poured on her. They blamed Rosa for coming home with bruises on her. They even blamed Rosa for being too loud, and that’s why they had to gag and bound her,’ Marko said.
The allegations of abuse go as far back as 2004.
‘We can make sure that no one else is being abused, and we can stop the abuse from taking place. Had they fulfilled their legal duty 10 years ago, it could have prevented a lot of the torture that Rosa underwent,’ Marko said.
The school district says they have taken remedial action after conducting an investigation.
‘As to the subject of this lawsuit, the family did not report this, or any other complaint to the district until nearly a year after it occurred,’ said the district in a statement. ‘We take the health, safety, and education of all of our students very seriously.’
The lawsuit is asking for damages and attorney fees paid for whatever amount a jury deems fair and reasonable.