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District pays $5 million in alleged abuse of students with autism

June 4th, 2010

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

A Pennsylvania school district has agreed to pay a $5 million settlement in response to a federal civil rights suit filed by parents who said their children with autism had been tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape. Defendants in the lawsuit, which included the Scranton-area school district as well as the teacher and other officials, did not admit wrongdoing.

Parents of seven children in the Abington Heights School District alleged that teacher Susan Comerford Wzorek slapped children, pulled them by the hair, stepped on their feet and, in one case, pulled a child across the room by the cast on his broken arm. After the allegations were lodged in 2006, Wzorek entered a no-contest plea to a criminal charge of recklessly endangering the welfare of children and served a 30-day jail term for a probation violation. She is now retired.

Plaintiffs attorneys said the settlement appeared to be the largest ever in Pennsylvania involving abuse of children in a special education classroom.

See also: Autistic children abused in Pa. classroom to get $5 million to settle federal lawsuit — AP/Los Angeles Times

Wzorek’s criminal attorney has said she never intentionally harmed any student and alleged that she was not provided with adequate training, guidance or support.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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