juan cabrillo malibu

California district ordered to pay $45 million to parents of autistic twins over alleged abuse

Oct. 26, 2022
A jury found that a behavioral aide at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in Malibu physically abused the two 7-year-old boys.

The Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School District has been ordered to pay $45 million to the family of twins with autism after a jury determined that a behavioral aide physically abused the 7-year-old boys.

The Santa Monica Daily Press reports that the lawsuit stemmed from incidents during the 2017-18 school year at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in Malibu. The behavioral aide, Galit Gottlieb, was accused of using corporal punishment, including physical restraint, physical abuse and intentional battery, against the twins. Their parents, Charles and Nadine Wong, filed the suit in 2019.

The incidents described in the case were initially reported by a district bus driver, who said she witnessed Gottlieb physically restrain and punish the students by putting hand sanitizer on their cuts.

“District administrators failed the twins by allowing them to be abused for months despite clear warnings they were being harmed,” said David German, the Wong's attorney.  

In response to the court decision, Santa Monica-Malibu Superintendent Ben Drati issued a statement that the verdict was not justified.

“We are working with our legal team to explore options to respond to what we believe to be a verdict that was not justified by the evidence presented,” Drati said. 

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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