Family of abused autistic child gets settlement from school district

Mar 23, 2013 by

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A Florida school district recently settled a lawsuit filed by the family of an autistic student who was allegedly abused by his special needs teacher.

A Florida court approved a settlement this month between the Lee County School District and Cynthia and Nicole Brimm, the parents of the autistic child who was allegedly abused by his former kindergarten teacher at Gulf Elementary School during the 2008-09 school year, the Pine Island Eagle reports.

“It’s a $200,000 settlement and most of that money goes into a special needs trust for the young boy,” the family’s attorney, Adam Balkan, told the news site.

“The family’s happy with it,” he said. “Of course, they’d be happier if this never happened.”

The lawsuit claims the “low-functioning, non-verbal” young boy suffered “severe and significant behavior and aggression that required medication, among other therapies” because of his former kindergarten teacher, Catherine Hile.

The family alleges Hile would twist the child’s wrists, bend his fingers backward, and pinch, push, pull, hit and strike him to induce pain. The Brimms alleged Lee County schools failed to properly screen the teacher, and did not adequately supervise and train its staff, the news site reports.

Records showed Hile had a long history of violent behavior with students before and after she came to Lee County schools. In Charlotte County, Hile was reprimanded for striking a student in the face and using inappropriate language with students, and punching another student in the arm several times, according to the Pine Island Eagle.

Hile was then hired by DeSoto County Schools, but parents from the Charlotte district notified Florida authorities, who launched an investigation and discovered more allegations of abuse: that she stepped on students’ toes, put hand sanitizer in their mouths, and tied their shoelaces to their chairs, the news site reports.

Hile later agreed to a punishment that included a mental health treatment and two years of probation, but she was later fired from DeSoto schools in 2006. She was hired by Lee County Schools the same year. Hile worked at Gulf Elementary School until 2009, during which time several of her colleagues told administrators she used excessive force with students.

“One aid documented five days of abuse by Hile toward students, including the boy” whose family later sued the district, the Pine Island Eagle reports.

Balkan said the family is happy the terrible ordeal is over, but is somewhat disappointed the settlement won’t draw as much attention to the problem of abusive educators as a trial would have.

“They’re happy it’s over, behind them, that they got a fair settlement,” he said. “But they also wanted their day in court and the world to know.”

via Family of abused autistic child gets settlement from school district – EAGnews.org :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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