Parents of child with autism file bullying lawsuit against Omaha, Ark. School District

Published: Dec. 12, 2017 at 5:38 PM CST
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Parents in Omaha, Arkansas claim their child with autism has been bullied not only by other students but also staff.

"It's horrible," Tonya Richardson said.

"It's heartbreaking," Chad Richardson said.

The Richardson's say their 13-year-old son has not been to school for more than a year. They say that is because when he did attend school in Omaha, he was bullied.

In a federal lawsuit filed against the school, the parents claim that their son was called names by other students and that the school did not stop the alleged bullying.

"There had been several incidents of bullying and the school did not address or investigate the incidents on hand," Tonya Richardson said.

The Richardson's further allege that when their son tried to tell his teacher about the bullying that she then bullied him, calling him a "tattle-tale" then forcing him to sit in the "time out chair" in the middle of the room.

"When you take an autistic child, or any child, and they cannot go to a teacher and tell them that something is happening and is ignored and they're told they're being a "tattle-tail," that is an issue, that is a problem," Chad Richardson said.

The lawsuit also reads that the boy now experiences PTSD and Tourettes due to the alleged treatment.

"What he has went through in the last 15 months is unbelievable," Tonya Richardson said.

That's why, now, he's taught at home.

"He's getting home-bound services now, yes," Chad Richardson said.

They say the school provided those services after a "due process hearing" last spring, which concluded that the district had previously denied the child "free and appropriate public education."

However, they say the alleged bullying continues to affect him.

"He is not the same child. He's a different child than we used to know," Tonya Richardson said.

The teacher mentioned in the complaint is still listed as an employee on the school district's website and the attorney for the district says the district denies any bullying on the teacher's part.

"Educators largely have a heart for kids that's why they're in the business," Attorney Marshall Ney said.

Ney says the school also denies accusations that they did not adequately respond to reports of bullying.

"The school takes the topic of bullying very seriously and the care and safety of their kids, and so yes the district absolutely denies the very sensationalized allegations that are being asserted against them," Ney said.

While the parents are seeking compensation for things like attorney fees, they say the purpose of the lawsuit is to prevent bullying.

"That no other child, whether he has autism or not, goes through what our child went through," Chad Richardson said.

The district and its attorney have 21 days to respond from the time of the complaint, which was filed last week.

The attorney says it could take a more than a year for the case to be concluded.