A student with disabilities was abused by his teacher at Blackburn Elementary School in Palmetto according to a lawsuit received by the school district this week.
It said the student, then 4 years old, came home with a swollen tongue, “busted lip” and bruised face on Sept. 29, 2017. However, deputies with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigated the allegations and labeled them “unfounded.”
The boy’s mother tried to contact Blackburn Elementary by phone and via the school’s “app,” but four days passed before she heard from anyone. She received a text message from another teacher who worked in the same classroom, and the message said she was unaware of any incidents or injuries, according to the lawsuit.
On the same day, the suit states, a deputy visited the family’s home to inquire about an anonymous report against the teacher in question. She allegedly flung the family’s son over her shoulder, injuring his lip and tongue, and she was accused of spanking another student.
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Both children have developmental disabilities and were unable to give authorities a statement, according to a report from the sheriff’s office.
In a statement to investigators, the teacher said one of the children was strong and difficult to control. The teacher also denied allegations that she spanked the student.
“He has bitten, kicked, and scratched her in the past,” the report states.
She told investigators the other student speaks Russian, making communication difficult. He tripped and smacked his head on a kitchen play set, but she placed ice on his forehead and soothed a red bump, according to the teacher’s conversation with deputies.
The teacher admitted to picking up the 25-pound boy and placing him over her shoulder, the report states, but she denied causing injuries or distress. He was later seen by the county’s Child Protection Team, which found that his injuries could be accidental or the result of abuse.
“There is no evidence to prove a crime occurred,” the report states.
Attorney Damian Mallard sent pre-suit notices to district officials in mid-October of last year, and he filed the lawsuit on July 9, more than nine months after the alleged incident. The family is alleging negligence, vicarious liability and a loss of filial consortium.
The teacher in question was placed on a temporary assignment during the investigation, and she may have been transferred to another school when the case was closed, according to the investigators’ report. The second teacher was already fired, but the report does not include a date or the reason for her termination.
A spokesman for the school district did not immediately return a request for comment.