Teacher Threw 9-Year-Old Autistic Boy Across Room: $700,000 Lawsuit

A new lawsuit is alleging that a woman's 9-year-old autistic son was picked up and thrown across a classroom by a school employee in Oregon.

The lawsuit was filed March 14 by the Oregon Law Center on behalf of Tiria Jones and her son, identified as M.M. in the suit, against the Multnomah Education Service District. Students with autism spectrum disorder are not uncommon, as the CDC reported in 2021 that one in 44 students are diagnosed with it, with boys being diagnosed more often than girls.

The Oregonian reported that the complaint alleges that Tiria's son had attended Four Creeks School for just five days when the incident occurred on September 7, 2021, reportedly causing bruises to the boy's legs.

The lawsuit reportedly states that the school district employee who allegedly assaulted the boy was placed on two days' leave following the incident. When asked if the worker in question was terminated and whether there was a date of termination, Laura Conroy, a spokesperson for the Multnomah Education Service District, told Newsweek that such information is confidential.

Also according to the suit, the district reportedly said following the incident that Jones' son was placed in restraints and separated from his class due to climbing on top of a bookshelf and kicking and spitting at staff.

Taking into account the alleged physical injuries and emotional harm, the lawsuit seeks $700,000 in damages.

A principal at Four Creeks, part of the Multnomah Education Service District, and identified as Nicole Hilton is reportedly quoted in the suit, telling Jones, "My heart is heavy over the events that transpired. I can't imagine how you are feeling."

Conroy told Newsweek that "the allegations in the complaint are deeply concerning," adding that the school district does not comment on pending litigation.

She said that district staffers "work with some of our community's most impacted and vulnerable children," including those who have experienced multiple life traumas including abuse, parental abandonment, death of family members, witnessing violence in the home, drugs in the home, housing and food instability, and violence.

"As a result of the trauma they've experienced, the children express their emotions through behaviors that can cause harm to themselves, other students and staff," Conroy said. "MESD staff are trained in SafetyCare protocols to keep students and staff safe when behavior escalates and endangers the student, other students, and staff."

Conroy said there are certain rules and guidelines instructors follow regarding children with disabilities. An Oregon Department of Education manual published in January 2020 states that "restraint and/or seclusion are safety responses utilized as a last resort when risk is high and when less restrictive interventions would not be effective."

But the manual says that neither restraint nor seclusion is a behavioral or therapeutic intervention that should be used regularly.

"Protocols include the use of verbal cues, holds and seclusion rooms to deescalate the child, or to keep the child and others safe until the child is able to deescalate," Conroy said. "When a hold or seclusion room is used our staff review and debrief each event for improvement and notify the child's family. We also work with the child to build appropriate skills to manage their emotions with the ultimate goal of the child returning to their neighborhood school."

Student and staff safety is a priority, she added, as "they are learning the skills they need to become resilient, strong, successful learners and community members."

Unfortunately, it's not the first time an autistic child was harmed while at school.

Earlier this month, a Florida teacher was charged with a felony after allegedly striking an autistic student in an incident that was caught on surveillance video. In February, a woman in Ohio was arrested and charged for allegedly abandoning her 5-year-old autistic son.

Lawsuit
A lawsuit in Oregon alleges that a 9-year-old boy was thrown across a room while in school. iStock/Getty Images