Saturday, August 15, 2009

Florida Lawsuit: Footage shows school abuse

Thursday, 13 Aug 2009 Peter Linton-Smith

LECANTO, Florida - A grainy surveillance tape will likely become 'Exhibit A' in a forthcoming lawsuit against the Citrus County School District. "I don't have the slightest doubt that it's child abuse," said Mark Kamleiter, an attorney representing a 14-year-old autistic boy seen in the video. Kamleiter says the videotape shows a teacher at the Crest School in Lecanto and an aide abusing the child. "They grab him by his arms and drag him on his knees out of the classroom, down the open school hallway and literally throw him into a dark room." The boy's father, Vikas Kamat, reluctantly watched the tape. "It's devastating. I have nightmares from that day 'til now." Kamat became suspicious when his son came home with this ripped clothing. Because of autism his son cannot speak and couldn't explain how his pants were being repeatedly torn.

On January 23, his son wound up in the emergency room with a broken finger and Kamat began demanding answers. "Everybody was telling me, 'Things are going well,' and that teacher could not tell me in the emergency room how the injury happened," he recalled. Kamat's attorney said the injury may have been an accident, but maintains the boy never should have been touched or placed in an isolation room in the first place. "We have laws in this state that make it a special crime to hurt disabled people and the abuse was the dragging and the placing in a seclusion room," Kamat said. A spokesman from the Citrus County School District refused to comment about the forthcoming lawsuit but did point out the teacher in the videotape was fired. According to the Department of Children and Family Services, the isolation room is no longer in use.