The Sarasota (Florida) County School District has reached a settlement over a lawsuit filed by a student alleging mistreatment. The district will pay $52,500 to settle the claim. The claim comes from a developmentally disabled student who states that she was mistreated by her teacher, Diana O’Neill, from Venice Elementary School. The teacher no longer works for the school.
The parents of the girl will drop the lawsuit against the district but still can file additional lawsuits against the teacher. All school board members and the district have agreed to settle the claim.
However, all is not in the clear for the school district since three other students have come forward alleging further abuse. They have sent letters of intent to sue to the district.
The current settled lawsuit states that the teacher pinched, poked, slapped and shoved the disabled student and called her a “fat ass” and a “waste of air.” This occurred when the student did not respond to the teacher. The student is missing half of her brain, which was surgically removed as an infant. The student is unable to talk, see or walk. According to the lawsuit, the day the student was abused, she came home with bruises.
The student’s attorney, states that the student was unable to communicate her abuse to the parents since she does not communicate. The parents state that they sent the child to school daily without any idea of the child’s poor handling.
O’Neill did not comment on the settlement. The amount of the settlement was reached through mediated session.
The teacher was arrested in 2008 on charges that she abused the disabled students in her care. She was acquitted of those charges. She kept her job in the school district but does not work as a teacher, but rather works in the record’s department. It is possible that she could lose her teaching certificate. A state administrative judge is scheduled to hear the case against O’Neill later this month, and will then make a recommendation about revoking her teaching certificate.
The Education Practices Commission will then vote whether to accept the judge’s recommended order. If the commission revokes her teaching certificate, the district would be able to fire O’Neill since she would no longer be qualified for her $78,000/year job.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about school district related employment law, student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district employment law issue.