Lawsuit: Teacher taped shut special needs student’s mouth


A teacher taped shut the mouth of a 26-year-old disabled student who wouldn’t be quiet, part of a series of abuses against the woman, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the woman’s parents.

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The student’s attorney, Jonathan Marko, told reporters Thursday that over the 10 years she attended classes in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District in Michigan, she suffered “medieval-type torture,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

“She had scalding hot coffee spilled on her, leaving permanent scarring. She was locked into a bathroom by herself,” Marko said. “She was slapped in the face so loud in the school yard that the bus driver across the school yard heard it and reported it to her parents. She was bound and gagged, and she had tape put over her mouth.”

The student has cerebral palsy and cognitive disorders, according to the Free Press. She uses a wheelchair and cannot speak.

According to MLive.com, the student attended High Point School. The school is operated by WISD and serves students with disabilities. Named in the suit were a special education teacher, the school’s principal and WISD, MLive.com reported.

Among the abuses the student suffered, the lawsuit claimed that her teacher, Nesa Johnson, covered her mouth in tape, photographed her and sent a text message of the image to the student’s mother.

“Help. She won’t be quiet!!!!” Johnson wrote in the text message, according to the lawsuit.

Filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, the lawsuit claimed that the student was “physically unable to remove the tape, has trouble breathing and clearing her throat, and breathes out of her mouth,” MLive.com reported.

"To think this is going on in today’s day and age, at an educational institution ... is abhorrent," Marko said, according to the Free Press.

He said the parents brought concerns about possible abuse to the school multiple times over the years, but each time, “The school assured them that they were taking care of it, that (the parents) were overreacting, that whatever was happening, whatever they saw or that was going on, that it was” the student’s fault, the Free Press reported. Her parents kept her at the school because they didn’t realize the extent of the abuse, according to the newspaper.

WISD spokeswoman Emma Jackson told MLive.com that Johnson no longer works for the school district, but she declined to discuss the specifics of the case.

"The Washtenaw ISD wants to assure the parents of our district that we take the health, safety, and education of all of our students very seriously," Jackson told MLive.com in a statement. "As to the subject of this lawsuit, 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."

Jackson told the Free Press that Johnson’s supervisor, Anne Nakon, is no longer employed by WISD either. It was not immediately clear if their departures were related to the allegations set forth in the lawsuit.

Nakon had previously told the Free Press that she was told about the allegations several months ago and that she “shared that I was unaware of any misconduct toward this student or any student.

“I would never condone such a behavior and, had I been made aware of or suspected any mistreatment of a student, would have immediately investigated the situation to protect the student," she said.


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