A federal court jury in Fort Worth has awarded a severely disabled Keller Independent School District student and his family a $1 million verdict in a case involving abuse and injury over a two-year period.
The verdict is believed to be among the largest of its kind against a U.S. public school system involving intentional discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Evidence showed that Terrence Rideau, who is now 16, suffered broken bones, cuts and other injuries as a special education student at Keller Middle School from 2008-2010. Because of his mental and physical disabilities, which resulted from an allergic reaction to medicine as an infant, Terence is not able to communicate any details about how he was injured.
Despite the repeated concerns and suspicions of the Rideau family, Keller officials denied any wrongdoing or problem at the school.
The family was awarded $1 million in total compensation based on physical pain, mental anguish and past and future medical care and expenses. Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before returning their verdict on Oct. 11 in the courtroom of Senior Judge Terry R. Means of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
"This verdict sends a significant message to school districts that they will be held responsible for the supervision of their teachers and the care and nurturing of special needs students," says the family's attorney Michael K. Hurst of Dallas' Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank. A.Shonn Brown, partner, and Joshua M. Sandler, associate, were also part of the trial team for the Rideau family.
"We want to thank the court and jurors for carefully considering the evidence and recognizing the emotional toll that the school district's neglect has had on the Rideau family," says Mr. Hurst.
Breggett Rideau, Terrence's mother, has lobbied the Texas Legislature and other regulatory agencies to require video cameras in special needs classrooms to discourage and document abusive behavior.
"This has never been about the money, but about raising awareness among school systems administrators and the public that we need to do a better job of protecting our children," says Ms. Rideau. "We're enhancing security every day for our schools, and cameras in these classrooms should be a part of that effort."
In April 2010, following a formal complaint by the Rideaus and an investigation by the school district and Texas Child Protective Services, evidence emerged that the district's teachers and other staff physically abused him and failed to follow proper procedures in moving and lifting him.
Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank LLP represents clients in complex commercial litigation in Texas and across the country. The firm's experience includes matters involving contract disputes, business torts, fiduciary litigation, labor and employment, securities and shareholder litigation, intellectual property litigation, bankruptcy and other commercial cases. Clients include leading companies – large and small – and individuals in the fields of energy, financial services, health care, telecommunications, insurance, manufacturing, private equity, real estate, retail and technology. Visit the firm's website at http://www.ghjhlaw.com.