Appeals court hears allegations of special needs abuse

May 12, 2022 GMT

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — Some Aberdeen School District employees have made their case before the 8th District appeals court that a lawsuit by parents of five special education student should not proceed to trial.

The appeals court heard the case Wednesday. The parents allege a teacher subjected their children to physical restraint, seclusion as punishment and unnecessary use of force, among other offenses. The plaintiffs say the teacher’s supervisors ignored their complaints.

The students are all non-verbal, some with autism, some have physical disabilities.

Allegations include that the children’s teacher confined the students in a small windowless room, that she grabbed students by the arms and jerked them around, that she pushed one boy into a YMCA pool, that she forcibly stripped another boy to get him ready for swimming, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

Zachary Peterson, an attorney for the defendants, told the three-judge appeals panel that there’s no evidence the children were physically or psychologically harmed.


But the attorney for the parents and students said otherwise.

Margaret O’Sullivan Kane told the judges that the children were not able to speak for themselves, and the abuse they suffered would not be tolerated by students who could speak up. She said school administrators had the opportunity to put a stop to the abuse but chose to look the other way.

The federal circuit judge presiding over the case issued an order last October and held that the case could continue to a jury. The employees appealed.