Family sues MCPS, alleging that special education son was assaulted in bathroom

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This article was published on Bethesda Magazine by Caitlynn Peetz on March 3, 2021.

A second local family has filed a lawsuit against the Montgomery County school system alleging their special education child was assaulted by a classmate because individual aides failed to supervise them.

The family, unnamed in court documents, says that their young son, who attended an elementary school, has significant cognitive and developmental disabilities, and was taught in a “self-contained classroom” with only other special education students.

He, and others in the classroom, were supposed to each be supervised by a one-to-one aide but were not, court documents say, allowing another student in the class to “initiate a pattern of abuse … physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically, and mentally.”

An MCPS spokeswoman wrote in an email on Wednesday that the school district had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit and declined to comment.

Court documents detail one specific instance of alleged abuse, during which the students were alone in a bathroom and, despite the student saying no, the other pulled down his pants and assaulted him.

After the incident, the victim began “obsessively washing himself” causing abrasions and told others he “felt unclean.” He has nightmares and struggles with outbursts of anger and anxiety, according to court documents. He had to be homeschooled because his family “did not feel safe with the child in the same school.”

Bethesda Beat is not identifying the school to protect the identity of the student.

The family argues in its lawsuit that if one-to-one aides assigned to students would have been supervising them as required, the abuse would not have occurred.

The lawsuit alleges the school board was negligent in not ensuring that staff members were adequately trained to work with students in special education programs and hired staff that “lacked sufficient qualifications, temperament, and background to work with, instruct, interact with, care for, and supervise” the students.

The family asked for a jury trial and more than $75,000 in monetary damages.

The case is similar to another filed last year, stemming from Rock Terrace School. The cases are being represented by the same attorney, David Ledyard, of Ledyard Law, LLC.

The Rock Terrace case alleges a nonverbal, autistic students was assaulted by classmates 11 times, causing serious injuries and mental health problems.

The boy, not identified in court documents, was also enrolled in a “self-contained classroom” with other students each supposed to be supervised by a one-to-one aide.

On at least 11 occasions between May 2017 and April 2018, the student was allegedly attacked by a fellow student or students, court documents say.

Photos included in the lawsuit show that in one incident, the student was bitten on the chest and the wound became infected. In another, he was hit “all over his body,” causing significant bruising and several cuts on his chest. The photos also show a large bruise on the student’s forearm and a deep purple bruise on his ankle and foot.

He was eventually transferred to a different school, according to the lawsuit.

It says the school district did not perform adequate background checks to verify aides’ experience and qualifications to work with students and did not provide adequate training to employees.

Attorneys for the school board have filed a motion to dismiss at least part of the case, and a hearing is scheduled for April 22.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at