The family of a woman suffering from cerebral palsy said their daughter allegedly suffered “repetitive instances of abuse” while she attended school in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
They are now suing the school district.
A federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of Rosa Smith, now 26, claimed a teacher used duct tape to close her mouth because she was making too much noise in her special education classroom.
The family also attached a photo of Smith taken at the March 2016 incident at Ann Arbor High Point special needs school, which was reportedly texted by a teacher named Nesa Johnson to the student’s mother.
The photo showed Smith's mouth taped shut with the caption that read: “Help. She won’t be quiet!!!!”
Smith's attorney said this was part of a pattern of abuse toward the 26-year-old, who also has cognitive disorders, a history of seizures and is unable to move her hands and arms.
The school district’s former principal, teachers and teacher aides are all named in the federal lawsuit
However, Washtenaw Intermediate Schools said no complaints were made by the family until nearly a year later.
“As to the subject of this lawsuit, the family did not report this, or any other complaint to the district until nearly a year after it occurred,” said the district in a statement. “We take the health, safety and education of all of our students very seriously.”
"This one is absolutely disgusting and appalling," said Smith’s attorney Jonathan Marko.
In an interview with a local news outlet, Marko said faculty would often blame Smith for the abuse she allegedly suffered.
“They blamed Rosa for scalding hot coffee being poured on her. They blamed Rosa for coming home with bruises on her. They even blamed Rosa for being too loud, and that’s why they had to gag and bound her,” Marko said.
The lawsuit further alleges, in February, a staff member allegedly slapped Smith in the face several times “in plain view” of other students and faculty members. Smith’s bus driver witnessed the assault and later notified her mother.
Smith withdrew from High Point School and now receives full-time care and instruction from her parents at home, who are retired.