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Families Claim Children Were Abused By Rocklin Special Education Teacher

ROCKLIN (CBS13) - Two families have filed a lawsuit claiming their autistic children were repeatedly abused by a Rocklin special education teacher.

That teacher is on administrative leave, but does not yet face criminal charges.

"It's frustrating; it's unacceptable; these kids should never be put in these situations," said parents Jen Hugunin.

It's a legal battle just beginning for parents Jen and Patrick Hugunin.

"We did notice he was behaving differently. He did not want to go to school. He hated school," said Jen.

The Hugunin's 8-year-old son with autism is one of three special needs students at Breen Elementary School who the Rocklin Police Department now says were victims of abuse inside their classroom by their own teacher. They recommended misdemeanor charges to the D.A. based on evidence they've gathered.

We wanted to know what the threshold for felony versus misdemeanor child abuse is.

"A felony abuse will be something where there is tangible and visible injuries…bruising, broken bones…this kind of thing.," said Rocklin Police Department spokesperson Captain Lon Milka.

The D.A. hasn't officially filed any criminal charge. The Rocklin Unified School District says it is cooperating with the investigation.

"I have been through a whole range of emotions from disbelief and shock to horror," said Jen.

Now the Hugunins are filing a civil lawsuit, revealing new details of the police report, including the teacher's name, Sherry McDaniel, and a dozen alleged specific incidents of abuse – some against their son.

In one alleged incident, McDaniel "…folded him in half by pressing his chest to his legs…"

She then "...aggressively threw him out of the classroom."

And in another "...pulling [student] through the opening of the chair, causing him to sustain physical injuries..."

The Hugunin's lawsuit claims the district knew about the incidents through reports from teachers' aides and did nothing to stop them.

"The fact that the school district knew what was going on and covered it up, has me so angry. It's deplorable," said Jen.

The Rocklin Unified School District issued this statement:

"The district is fully cooperating with the investigation by law enforcement. The teacher was placed on paid administrative leave last spring when the district was made aware of these allegations."

The next step legally is for the D.A. to decide whether or not criminal charges should be filed.

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