Greene Valley poised to pay $350,000 to settle suit in alleged battery of autistic boy

Greene Valley poised to pay $350,000 to settle suit in alleged battery of autistic boy



A settlement of $350,000 has been proposed in a federal lawsuit
alleging that an autistic boy who cannot speak was repeatedly assaulted
by a teacher at the Greene Valley State School for the Severely
Disabled.



The lawsuit, filed by the boy's father, alleges teacher
Janet Carrie Williams hit and slapped the boy and called him names. It
alleges the boy's rights were repeatedly violated and he suffered
"bodily harm and emotional distress." The defendants stated, in the
settlement agreement, that they deny those allegations.



The
four-page tentative agreement was filed this week but must still be
signed and accepted by a judge. If approved, it would resolve the civil
lawsuit against the school, the teacher, Greene Valley director Peggy
Robinson, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
and the Missouri Board of Education. Criminal charges are still pending
against the teacher, who no longer works for the school, located in
Springfield.



Under the proposed agreement filed with the U.S.
District Court, the boy's family would receive a settlement of $232,177
and the attorneys representing the boy — Kuhlmann LLC and the Klein Law
Firm — would each receive $58,911. There was at least one attorney from
each of the two firms involved in the case.



The
boy's family stated the settlement would be used to compensate the boy
for his "alleged physical personal injuries and attorney fees." However,
court records show that even with the settlement "there was a dispute
between the parties, both as to the facts and the nature and extent of
any injuries sustained."



A state official said once the agreement has been signed, the settlement will be paid out of the state's legal expense fund.



The
proposed settlement notes the boy's family has separately filed a
complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, which is not
part of this lawsuit.



Late last year, the boy's father received an
anonymous letter alleging Williams slapped the boy "with an open hand"
and is "demeaning and hostile toward her students" at the Greene Valley
State School in Springfield, court records show. He took the letter to
the Springfield Police Department, which launched an investigation.



The
police interviewed Williams and her co-workers at Greene Valley, one of
the designated Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled that is
operated by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.



According
to court documents, a teacher's aide and an occupational therapist told
police, in separate interviews, that they witnessed Williams slapping
the boy against the head. Police say the therapist said Williams called
the boy a "son of a b----" and then stated "You didn't see me hit him."



The
boy, now 8, cannot speak and weighs 95 pounds. The father stated, in
the document, the boy was diagnosed with autism, epilepsy and attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder.



Williams, who lives in Lebanon,
later allegedly described the incident to police as "a glancing,
open-handed gesture." She allegedly admitted to a Springfield police
officer that she "accidentally hit a child in the head five times."



On
another occasion, Williams was seen trying to kick the boy while he was
under a changing table and calling him an "idiot," according to court
documents.



No one interviewed by police reported "suspicious
injuries" on the boy. Williams told police that she did not think she
hurt the boy but, after one of the incidents, Williams allegedly stated
he cried "empty tears."



In May, Williams was charged with
third-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child, both
misdemeanors. She pleaded not guilty and was instructed not contact the
boy or his family or have any contact with other children under age 17.



Williams
has a hearing Aug. 3 in front of Judge Mark Powell. If convicted, she
faces fines and jail time — up to 15 days on one count and one year on
another.

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