The Law Offices of Robert Kilby, on behalf of three families of children with special needs, has filed three lawsuits against the Washoe County School District.

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Suit alleges Washoe student was forced to stay in bathroom for entire school day

The Law Offices of Robert Kilby, on behalf of a family of a child with disabilities, has filed a lawsuit against the Washoe County School District.

A lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Reno alleges that a 5-year-old with disabilities was abused at Florence Drake Elementary School in Sparks.

The suit filed by Maria Tautolo, the girl’s mother, names the Washoe County School District, special education teacher Sarah Anderson and Drake Principal Nichole Truax for the alleged abuse.

The suit says that on Jan. 30, 2015, Tautolo’s daughter, who has autism, was forced to spend the entire school day seated on the toilet without food and water.

According to a school district police investigation, Florence Drake staff said the teacher insisted the girl stay in the bathroom.

Anderson told police that she was potty training the girl.

Contacted via email on Tuesday, Anderson, who is no longer working in the Washoe County School District, said she did not have any knowledge of the suit.

School Board President Angela Taylor said she also was not aware of the lawsuit.

“The Washoe County School District has not been served on this case, and at this time, we cannot comment,” said district spokesperson Victoria Campbell.

According to staff statements in the police report, other incidents of alleged abuse occurred in the classroom during the 2014-15 school year. Reports included that Anderson yelled at students and made rude and inappropriate comments.  A teacher’s aide wrote in a police statement, “We want to protect these kids from Anderson.”

Tautolo said she only learned of the bathroom incident a week after it occurred. She said the district never notified her of what happened to the investigation into her daughter’s case.

She said she only contacted an attorney when she found out Anderson was still working with children with disabilities.

The suit was filed by attorney Robert Kilby, who recently represented the families of two students at Picollo School, the district’s segregated school for children with disabilities.

In that suit, the district agreed to pay the two families $1.35 million following allegations of abuse by a teacher at Picollo.

, 3:14 p.m. PDT September 13, 2016
Reno Gazette-Journal

Washoe County School District agrees to settle abuse lawsuit for $1.35 million

A district insurance policy will pay the majority of the settlement that is being split between two families.

The Washoe County School District has agreed to pay $1.35 million to two families that accused a teacher of abuse at Marvin Picollo School, according to public documents filed in court Friday.

The suit, filed Nov. 18 in U.S. District Court, alleged that during the 2013-14 school year two 8-year-old girls were the victims of physical, verbal and emotional abuse by a teacher at the school in South Reno for children with severe disabilities. The suit was filed against the district, Picollo Principal Matt Burak and special education teacher Debra Stebbins.

A district insurance policy will pay the majority of the settlement that is being split between two families. The school district will directly pay for $300,000 of the settlement costs.

In a district release about the settlement, Chief General Counsel for the school district Neil Rombardo said, “This is part of our continuing commitment to ensuring that our school environments are safe and respectful at all times, for all students. We feel that this settlement will help support that commitment, while limiting District exposure.”

The district said Superintendent Traci Davis and School Board President Angela Taylor would not comment or answer questions about the settlement.

In the suit, Stebbins, who was hired by the school district in 1999, is accused of yelling and swearing at one of her students, who has cerebral palsy.

Stebbins has not responded to requests for comment. She no longer works for the school district.

On Friday,  Reno attorney Robert Kilby and California attorneys Todd Boley and Peter Alfert, who represented both families, filed documents listing the full settlement agreement. The agreements have to be approved by a judge.

In the court filings, Stebbins is accused of picking up Autumn Battenfeld, then 32-pounds, and shoving her on top of a horse at the school’s equine therapy program. She is also accused of prying the girl’s legs apart and then pulling her off the horse and throwing her back in her wheelchair when she cried out in pain. The district has agreed to pay $800,000 to the family according to court documents.

The suit also accused Stebbins of abusing the daughter of Brenda Donahue. Alex, now 11, has a rare genetic disorder that affects her mental, motor and language development. Stebbins was accused of leaving Alex in pain on the ground after she “roughly grabbed” the little girl, who uses a walker, and pulled her off the bus. The district has agreed to pay $550,000 in this case.

In July, the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees authorized the district to pay a $300,000 deductible to move forward in settling a lawsuit.

During that meeting, none of the trustees asked legal counsel about the final payout amount or the case before voting unanimously to approve to pay the district’s deductible.

Written by Siobhan McAndrew, RGJ

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August 12, 2016