Lawsuit claims APS mishandled 7-year-old autistic student
Posted at: 06/25/2012 5:59 PM
| Updated at: 06/25/2012 6:38 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4
A lawsuit obtained by KOB Eyewitness News 4 states Albuquerque Public Schools violated its own student handbook when trying to handle a seven-year-old student with autism.
The grandmother and mother of Mitchell Elementary student Reese Cole filed the suit making two serious claims.
The first incident happened on an APS school bus in September 2009. The suit claims Cole was in his assigned seat when another student began assaulting Cole by punching and kicking his face. The suit also states the attacker exposed his genitals to Cole and others on the bus.
The suit states the attacker was never disciplined.
"I just want him to not hate school, he hates school," said Jean Cole, who is the boy’s grandmother and legal guardian.
A year later, the boy had a “behavioral outburst” according to the suit. The suit states Reese acted out in various ways including yelling, throwing items, and spitting. In February 2011, the suit alleges faculty tied Reese to a chair restraining him with bungee cords. The suit alleges the restraint caused Reese to suffer a severe seizure which resulted in physical and emotional damage. Faculty at Mitchell Elementary were forced to call 911 because Reese became unresponsive.
"He's restrained because they say it’s his behavior, but he's restrained because its autism symptoms and I pointed it out to them and they disagree," said Jean Cole about Mitchell Elementary faculty.
Jean is suing because she said she pleaded with APS staff to find alternative ways to handle Reese’s behavior other than restraining him with bungee cords. She said the restraints cause life-threatening seizures.
Jean told Eyewitness News 4 that she knows of at least a dozen of times after the February 2011 incident where faculty have tied her grandchild down.
The suit alleges APS staff did not follow APS handbook guidelines to deal with Reese’s behavioral outbursts and were not properly trained.
Late Monday afternoon, an APS spokesperson released the following statement:
“While the plaintiff in this case alleges that this student was restrained using bungee cords, there is absolutely no evidence that the student was ever restrained using bungee cords. This allegation is completely false and the district expects to prevail at trial.”