Salam & Associates, PC

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How our firm can help when teachers abuse their students

It's a tough day when you have four sets of parents in your office asking you to represent them on behalf of their children... and the allegation is child abuse. Such matters - that is, cases of child abuse and neglect - differ from the typical cases seen by personal injury attorneys. I humbly accepted the challenge and knew this was going to be a very emotional case.

My clients sought legal assistance on behalf of five children, including one set of twins, all of them between two and five years old. They all went to the same private school and were physically abused by the same teacher. Suspicions arose when the children began acting strangely - each of them had developed a distinct fear of being in a bathroom. Upon noticing a dramatic change in behavior, their mothers conversed and discussed the problems. It wasn't long before they concluded something was awry. They approached the school, called the proper authorities, and an investigation was initiated.

A Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation had already taken place by the time I was involved. As such, I subpoenaed all investigative records and reports. As suspected, multiple violations were found; however, there were no citations for child abuse. As you may imagine, no teacher or day care worker is likely to act inappropriately when CPS is physically present!

The teacher's unjust punishment

We made a claim for damages against the school and I gathered all the information about the abuse. As it turns out, when this particular teacher thought a kid was being "bad" or "misbehaving," she would hit the child with a fly swatter, drag the child by the ear to the bathroom, throw the child in the bathroom with the lights off, and then and shut the door behind her.

Due to the traumatic nature of being left alone in a dark bathroom, the kids became terrified of all bathrooms. These children had all been potty-trained but now they were wetting the bed and wetting their pants. They refused to go into a bathroom, even in their own homes. Many of them also experienced nightmares and acted out in a violent manner by hitting other kids.

The children were in therapy and some improved at a faster rate than others. Of course, we obtained the therapy records for all five children; however, the tough part about the case was that all of our allegations were undocumented. This was not like a typical car accident case where the facts are recorded in a police report and the injuries recorded in medical records. Proving that abuse had taken place was more difficult.

How we cracked the case

After obtaining records and gathering all the necessary information about what happened at the school and how it affected each child, we sent everything to opposing counsel for review and evaluation. The case ended up settling at mediation for a confidential amount. The money was set aside in trust for each child to receive a certain amount every year starting at age 18.

In my opinion, the saddest fact about the case was that the school never fired the individual that was abusing the children. The parents desperately wanted an agreement that the school fire her upon settlement; however, such a condition is out of the purview of a civil remedy. The most that could be done was to obtain a monetary recovery for damages and hope this never happens to another child.

All in all, by the end of the case, the kids had greatly improved. They were in school and doing well both physically and emotionally.

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Richardson, TX Office
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