School Employees Sued For Allegedly Taping Cerebral Palsy Student’s Mouth Shut

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

The mother of a cerebral palsy student is suing Michigan school employees for taping her daughter’s mouth shut, according to a Sunday report.

Ann Arbor, Mich., mother Doreen Smith sued former Washtenaw Intermediate School District teacher Nesa Johnson, former school principal Anne Nakon, the district itself, and two unnamed staffers, reported The Washington Post.

Smith’s 26-year-old daughter, Rosa Smith, attended Washtenaw Intermediate’s High Point School from at least 2004 until earlier this year. She transferred to Johnson’s class in 2004 after receiving third-degree burns from having hot coffee spilled on her leg.

High Point told Smith that her daughter’s actions precipitated these injuries, but Smith alleges Rosa would not have been able to do so.

Johnson allegedly sent Smith a text message displaying Rosa’s mouth covered with four pieces of tape in March 2016, according to reports. The teacher sent “Help. She won’t be quiet!!!!” followed by two emojis in a following text, according to legal documents.

School officials locked Rosa in a bathroom for hours after “gargling her spit,” the lawsuit claims.

“The school assured them that they were taking care of it, that they [the parents] were overreacting, that whatever was happening, whatever they saw or thought was going on, that it was the student’s fault,” said Jonathan Marko, Smith’s attorney, in a Thursday news conference.

Smith is seeking seven-figures in damage, Marko said.

“The Washtenaw [Intermediate School District] wants to assure the parents of our district that we take the health, safety, and education of all of our students very seriously,” the school district said in a statement obtained by WaPo. “The family did not report this, or any other complaint to the district until nearly a year after it occurred. During that subsequent year, the student continued attending school, in the same classroom, with the same teacher. When we were first informed of the family’s concern, we immediately conducted a complete investigation and took appropriate remedial action.”

The district no longer employs either Johnson or principal Nakon, but they were not terminated, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“I would never condone such a behavior and, had I been made aware or suspected any mistreatment of a student, would have immediately investigated the situation to protect the student,” Nakon told the Detroit Free Press.

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