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Santa Clara County (Calif.) schools to pay $2 million to settle abuse case

Classroom aides had accused special education teacher of repeatedly abusing a non-verbal 11-year-old boy.

The Santa Clara County (Calif.) Office of Education has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by parents who alleged their special-needs child was abused for months by his teacher.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that according to letters that classroom aides sent to school administrators and parents in 2013, the then-11-year-old nonverbal student at Bertha Taylor School in San Jose was enclosed in a “cell block” of bookshelves, belted onto a chair, induced to vomit, shoved and violently jerked around by his clothing,

The father of the student, who is now 15, says he’s happy to settle the case, but is disappointed that more changes weren’t forced upon the county Office of Education to ensure that other special-education students aren’t subjected to abuse .

The boy's teacher, April Carlson, continues to teach in a program the county Office of Education runs at the Saratoga Sub-Acute Children’s Hospital, where she was transferred after the alleged incidents came to light.

Neither Carlson, Special Education Principal Carolina Lluria or Jon Gundry, the county’s superintendent of schools, were available for comment. However, an email from Gundry’s office pointed out that the settlement did not admit fault and that the teacher has denied the allegations.

As part of the settlement of the civil-rights case, the county Office of Education agreed to place a letter of reprimand in Carlson’s and Lluria’s personnel files. The county Office of Education agreed in the settlement that Carlson will not transfer back into a classroom.

The case came to light in September 2013, when a classroom aide wrote a lengthy letter to then-Superintendent Xavier De La Torre and other administrators detailing alleged abuse by Carlson and refusal to intervene by Lluria.

Instead of reporting the suspected abuse to law enforcement, the county Office of Education conducted an internal investigation, the lawsuit contended. The review resulted in a decision to return Carlson to the classroom.

Then the Office of Education received another letter from four aides.

“We cannot disagree more," the letter read. "Should April return to ‘teach,’ we feel scared for our children and for ourselves.”

Immediately after receiving the first letter, the father said, the family removed the boy from Carlson’s class. He now attends a private school.

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