ANTIOCH (CBS SF) - The Antioch Unified School District has announced that it will pay $8 million to eight families who sued over a teacher's alleged abuse of autistic kindergarten students and the district's failure to report it.
School district officials at their Wednesday night school board meeting announced the settlement of the lawsuit stemming from alleged abuse at the hands of former Mno Grant Elementary School teacher Theresa Allen-Caulboy.
Peter Alfert, the plaintiffs' attorney, said the money would allow the victims to seek psychiatric care to deal with the ongoing effects of the abuse.
The payment is covered by the school district's insurance fund and will not come from the district budget, district officials said.
"Although the settlement brings an end to the legal process, the Antioch Unified School District is in no way finished with this difficult chapter in our history," a statement from the district read. "We must continue to learn from this case and work to ensure that every child entrusted to our schools is educated in a safe environment."
Any sense of trust in their children's safety was shattered for eight sets of parents after allegations surfaced that Allen-Caulboy in her classroom had repeatedly abused their children, some of whom are unable to speak, said Alfert, the plaintiffs' attorney.
According to the lawsuit filed in April by the families of the eight kindergarteners, the teacher hit, pinched and bruised the children and used demeaning language, sometimes calling one child a "retard," among other incidents.
The lawsuit further alleged that school principal Michael Green, district special education director David Wax, assistant superintendent for human resources Keith Rogenski and special education coordinator Kai Montgomery failed to report the allegations to police as required by law and tried to keep parents from reporting their own suspicions.
"This is another example of a school district whose employees are not trained properly to report abuse, and when abuse was reported, district officials ... tried to conceal it," Alfert said.
The district said it has since overhauled its policy on suspected abuse and re-trained all employees on their legal obligations as mandated reporters of abuse.
"When our district learned that a settlement had been reached, we acted to expedite its formal approval for the families involved," the district's statement read. "It is our hope that this settlement helps the children and families involved continue to heal."
Allen-Caulboy resigned from her position earlier this year after parents reported their suspicions and she has since been charged by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office with abusing six students following a police probe into the allegations.
She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is on house arrest.
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