Parents of an autistic student are suing their child’s former school and some staff members in response to an alleged assault.
The 13-year-old child was allegedly assaulted in March of this year at Ozark Horizon State School in West Plains, Missouri. According to a Springfield news report, the boy did not report the abuse himself because of his “severe developmental disabilities,” including an inability to speak.
A Kansas City news report references a probable cause statement claiming that, in response to a report of possible child abuse, a police officer met with a social services investigator, “who had learned through an anonymous hotline call that a 13-year-old non-verbal student with autism was being mishandled.”
After this, attorney Dayrell Scrivner said, “police are the ones who took the ball and ran with it, and found out what exactly happened, and turned it over to the prosecutor, who filed felonies against the defendants mentioned in the suit.”
Videos from Ozark Horizon State School reportedly reveal the identities of several staff members who either participated in or watched mistreatment of the child.
The Springfield news report summarizes some of the details:
“The alleged abuse included kicking and shoving the boy, striking the boy’s head against a wall, hitting him in the face with a pillow, striking the boy hard enough to knock him out of his seat, yelling at the boy just inches from his ear and pulling his hair multiple times while saying, ‘Yeah? That hurts a little, doesn’t it?’”
“Several employees also forcefully pinned the child by his head, neck and chest to a desk,” the newspaper wrote, citing the lawsuit.
Before learning of the abuse, the parents had been told by school staff that a classroom had been “destroyed” by their son. However, the suit alleges that it was actually school staff who staged the room and then blamed the student.
Defendents named in the suit include the school, the state Board of Education, the Missouri Schools for the Severely disabled, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and seven female employees of the school, most of whom face additional criminal charges arising from the alleged abuse. None of the seven are currently listed as employed by the school.
The Springfield report states that, in addition to “negligence, negligent supervision, fraud, retaliation, infliction of emotional distress and civil assault and battery,” the suit also alleges violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to Scrivner, who says the parents approached him “before the criminal charges were ever filed,” the child is now under constant home care from his parents. The family is being represented solely by Scrivner and his wife.
“They can’t leave him home, and the home education program, where teachers are sent into the home, was not being offered to them for a while, although it changed after some of this came out,” Scrivner said. “It’s about making changes, accountability, hiring, training and supervising in these schools.”
The Springfield report says the six defendants facing criminal charges have court dates in early November.