A Lansing, Michigan, mother filed a federal lawsuit against the Lansing School District claiming that a former special education teacher physically abused her autistic son and the district covered it up.
Jennifer Garza filed the suit on behalf of her 13-year-old son, identified as C.G. in the filing, who has both autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit disorder, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The lawsuit alleges that substitute teacher Lester Duvall “grabbed (the boy) by the arm, dragged him to the classroom door, and threw him on the floor and into a bookcase” after telling him to sit down when he attempted to sharpen his pencil.
The suit claims that Duvall has been abusing students for over a decade -- and that the district knew about it.
School officials did not inform Garza of the incident and neglected to report it to police until a week later, MLive reports. Following the incident, C.G. suffered from increased anxiety and depressive symptoms.
“My son is still suffering from this attack, which set back his educational progress and made him fear schools and teachers,” Garza told MLive.
Duvall was charged with misdemeanor child abuse. He pleaded down to one count of disorderly person and was fined $300.
“Lester Duvall's violent attack on C.G. was predictable and preventable,” attorney Peter Alfert said. “For more than a decade, [Lansing School District] staff, parents and the local Community Mental Health Authority notified the district's administrators about this rogue educator's physical, verbal and psychological abuse of special education students. Despite voluminous documentation of Duvall's frequent maltreatment of these vulnerable youngsters, the district turned a blind eye to his illegal and abusive behaviors.”
“I am familiar with several details of the case,” Lansing School District spokesperson Robert Kolt said. "The former employee involving the lawsuit resigned effective April 30."
Garza is seeking damages for her son’s injury, emotional distress and medical expenses. Nine defendants in total are named in the suit, including Duvall and the school district.