Add To Favorites
Family alleges Orlando charter school abused student with autism
Orlando Sentinel - 8/10/2022
The family of a boy on the autism spectrum is suing Access Charter School, a school for kids with cognitive and social disorders in Orlando, alleging staff repeatedly abused and restrained the student.
“He got to the point where he was scared to go to school. He tried to run away,” his mom said at a news conference on Wednesday. “He was petrified.”
In the complaint, the boy, a minor, is referred to as DC and his mother as SC.
They’re demanding a jury trial and seeking monetary compensation for DC’s medical and psychological treatment, as well as for the emotional and physical toll of the alleged abuse.
The abuse began in April 2021, the suit alleges, when DC came home with bruises and said he was restrained and slammed into a desk by Douglas Cox, a behavioral specialist who has since stopped working at the school.
The abuse continued into 2022, when DC was 14 years old, said the family’s lawyer, Michael Mann of the Cochran Firm Orlando.
In all, DC had 22 different injuries throughout that Spring semester and the subsequent fall semester, Mann said during the news conference.
DC’s mother says the school repeatedly told her the injuries were self-inflicted, but DC’s pediatrician determined they were inflicted by someone else, consistent with DC’s claims.
“There are children in that school that can’t speak. There are some children that carry iPads to communicate. ... And what happens if that happens to them?” she said, speaking about her son’s claim of abuse. “I don’t want that happening to another child.”
At the beginning of 2022, DC came home with fingerprints around his neck and told his parents he was scared to go to school. He said he felt like prey, and his teacher was a predator.
His mom contacted the school again. The school then filed a complaint against her with the Florida Department of Children and Families, citing a lack of medical care for DC.
“It was clearly retaliatory,” Mann alleged.
After talking to the family, DCF opened a separate investigation into the charter school.
DC’s mom is now homeschooling the teenager. He’s too afraid to go back to school or to see any of the therapists who treat him for his autism spectrum disorder, she says.
“He doesn’t want to go to school; he doesn’t want speech therapy; he doesn’t want his, you know, social skills therapy; he does not want to be around anybody because he’s afraid of abuse,” she said.
She added that the family had moved to Orlando from Tennessee because they heard Florida had good programs for kids on the autism spectrum. Now, she said she can’t imagine sending DC back to school.
“It breaks my heart. I feel like I’ve failed my child, and I’ve failed to protect him,” she said.
As the lawsuit moves forward, a DCF investigation into Access Charter School is still pending, Mann said.
email@example.com; @CECatherman Twitter
©2022 Orlando Sentinel. Visit orlandosentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.