A school district is being sued after allegations that faculty at a Michigan school repeatedly abused a student with cerebral palsy.
In a 25-page lawsuit filed against Washtenaw Intermediate School District, 26-year-old Rosa Smith’s attorney, Jonathan Marko, alleges that Smith suffered “repetitive instances of abuse,” including having her mouth taped shut, being locked in a bathroom for extended periods of time, and having hot coffee spilled on her, among other things.
Smith is non-verbal and has an inability to move her hands and arms.
In graphic pictures released in the lawsuit, Smith can be seen with her mouth taped shut.
A teacher at the school, Nesa Johnson, allegedly taped Smith’s mouth shut in March 2016 because she was “making noises.”
Johnson then allegedly sent the picture to Smith's mother, Doreen, saying, “Help. She won’t keep quiet!!!”
“Taping a special-needs student’s mouth shut is appalling in-and-of-itself, but was especially torturous for Rosa, who is physically unable to remove the tape, has trouble breathing and clearing her throat, and breathes out of her mouth,” the lawsuit states.
In an interview with a local news outlet, Marko said faculty would often blame Smith for the abuse she allegedly suffered.
“They blamed Rosa for scalding hot coffee being poured on her. They blamed Rosa for coming home with bruises on her. They even blamed Rosa for being too loud, and that’s why they had to gag and bound her,” Marko said.
In February, a staff member allegedly slapped Smith in the face several times “in plain view” of other students and faculty members, according to the lawsuit. Smith’s bus driver witnessed the assault and later notified her mother, the lawsuit said.
The alleged abuse dates back to 2004, according to the lawsuit.
Smith’s mother, Doreen, said in a news conference that the family had reported the abuse to the district multiple times.
“As to the subject of this lawsuit, the family did not report this, or any other complaint to the district until nearly a year after it occurred,” the school district said in a statement. “We take the health, safety, and education of all of our students very seriously.”