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Teacher taped shut mouth of student with cerebral palsy, lawsuit says

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ANN ARBOR, MI (WXYZ/CNN) – In a lawsuit, the family of a woman with cerebral palsy says her former teacher, among others, abused and neglected her over many years while at school.

The 25-page lawsuit, filed against Washtenaw Intermediate School District, a teacher, principal and two teacher’s aides, outlines "repetitive instances of abuse” suffered by Rosa Smith, a now 26-year-old woman with cerebral palsy.

Smith has cognitive impairment, an inability to communicate verbally and physical impairments, including the inability to move her hands and arms.

According to the lawsuit, the woman endured physical, emotional and psychological harm at the hands of the defendants, who allegedly spilled scalding hot coffee on her, locked her in the bathroom for extended periods of time and slapped her across the face.

“These weren’t accidents, and there was abuse going on,” attorney Jonathan Marko said.

Additionally, the suit alleges Smith’s teacher, Nesa Johnson, forcefully taped the woman’s mouth shut in March 2016 because she was “making noises.”

“They blamed Rosa for scalding hot coffee being poured on her. They blamed Rosa for coming home with bruises on her. They even blamed Rosa for being too loud, and that’s why they had to gag and bound her,” Marko said.

The alleged abusive actions had been occurring as far back as 2004, according to the suit.

“We can make sure that no one else is being abused, and we can stop the abuse from taking place. Had they fulfilled their legal duty 10 years ago, it could have prevented a lot of the torture that Rosa underwent,” Marko said.

The school district says they have taken remedial action after conducting an investigation.

“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,” said the district in a statement. “We take the health, safety, and education of all of our students very seriously.”

The lawsuit is asking for damages and attorney fees paid for whatever amount a jury deems fair and reasonable.

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