This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
A New Orleans mother is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the strategy being used by school officials to shield themselves from liability for an assault on her daughter.
The fight is being handled by the Institute for Justice, which described "three instances" of physical abuse by school staff on a grade school student with autism.
The legal team explains Sonia Book began working with IJ when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals created immunity from a lawsuit for school officials who "abused" her daughter.
In fact, IJ reported, "That federal appeals court, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, shields all violence by public-school educators and employees from any constitutional scrutiny, no matter how unwarranted or excessive. "
But Jaba Tsitsuashvili, a lawyer for IJ, said, "All government employees must respect constitutional rights. School employees should not be above the law when they physically abuse the children they are there to educate and help grow. Sonia deserves to have her constitutional claims against those who abused her daughter, and those who did nothing about it heard in court. The Constitution and the federal civil rights law guarantee it."
Sonia's daughter, identified only as S.B., has nonverbal autism, and after a recommendation from a speech therapist was enrolled in Schneckenburger Elementary School.
"The first few years went well, but in 2020, S.B. suffered at least three instances of physical abuse by school staff," the IJ reported.
"On February 7, 2020, S.B. was working with a behavioral technician in her third-grade special education class. While the technician was picking up a puzzle, S.B. allegedly kicked in her direction. No contact was made. But S.B.’s teacher, Janine Rowell, slapped S.B. multiple times on the wrists while yelling at her. Multiple staff who witnessed the abuse failed to report it, but the technician got word to the principal. It soon came out that staff had also seen Rowell hit S.B. two weeks before and failed to report it then too," the IJ said.
The teacher, not given any discipline, was transferred to another school where "earlier this year," she "pleaded guilty to multiple criminal counts because she went on to continue physically and verbally abusing more young children with autism."
Another incident developed for S.B. when she was "assaulted again by another educator. While working on spelling, S.B. allegedly pinched the paraprofessional she was working with, and the paraprofessional responded by hitting S.B. on the hands. S.B.’s new special education teacher reported the paraprofessional to the principal. Once again, the principal failed to report the violence to authorities or fire the educator; like Rowell, the paraprofessional was just transferred to another school."
"If the school system isn’t going to hold the people who hit my daughter accountable, then I hoped the courts would, but so far that hasn’t happened. It makes no sense to me that people who hit your kids can get away with it if they work for the school. That’s who my daughter should be able to trust, not fear," the mom said.
Her legal case charges constitutional rights violations, but the lower courts so far have said school officials are immune – they cannot be sued for their actions.
"The Fifth Circuit is way out of step with the rest of the nation’s courts on this issue, and we’re asking the Supreme Court to right this legal wrong," said IJ Senior Attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “The absolute protection the Fifth Circuit has created for abusive teachers and school administrators is greater than the overly-generous immunities that already extend to police and every other public employee."