Brentwood school district to pay $8 million in child abuse settlement
|By Rowena Coetsee, Contra Costa Times|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"We have learned painful, necessary lessons about the culture we must have in place if we are to be worthy of the trust parents place in us," Superintendent
The district's insurance will pay the families of eight special needs children who were physically and verbally abused by the same teacher at Loma Vista and Krey elementary schools.
Filed in August, the federal lawsuit names the instructor,
The suit claimed that Holder violated the children's Constitutional rights by using "unjustified and unreasonable force" against them.
It also alleged that five district administrators were indifferent to the students' plight and, by deliberately withholding information about what was happening in Holder's classroom, interfered with parents' right to comfort their children.
In addition, the district was accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act; by subjecting them to a hostile environment, the complaint said it failed to give the youngsters the same education as every other child.
Holder was at the center of an earlier lawsuit that the district settled in
She subsequently pleaded no contest to a charge of child cruelty, and the settlement called for her resignation.
But the damage Holder had done was not over.
School district officials including the former superintendent and former principal of
What's more, this handful of administrators never told the parents of Holder's other students at Loma Vista and Krey about the criminal charges the county District Attorney had filed against her, the complaint alleges.
Families only discovered that their children also had been mistreated when the news media reported the settlement of the first lawsuit in
The complaint they eventually filed noted that the children in her care were either too young to report Holder's behavior or lacked the language skills because of their disabilities.
According to court records, Holder violently shook one boy, slapped another, berated those who struggled to talk and routinely used profane language to refer to her students.
One girl sustained bruises, deep scratches and a cut on her chin that has left a permanent scar. Another boy began hiding under a table in the classroom. Some children began withdrawing; others became aggressive.
In an effort to prevent history from repeating itself, the district for months has been hammering home a renewed zero-tolerance stance toward abusive conduct.
It used to be that new hires simply signed an acknowledgment that they are mandated reporters and principals would remind their staff of the same at the start of each school year, Eaton said.
Following the first lawsuit, however, every
In addition, the district last spring engaged the
From now on, all employees will receive one of these two forms of training each year.
"I think everybody is absolutely clear that their responsibility is to protect the children," Eaton said.
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