Mother of disabled teen testifies in federal suit against Keller district

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Her son’s unexplained injuries continued for two years while he was in special-education classes at Keller Middle School, Breggett Rideau testified in federal court Tuesday.

A former teacher, Dan Evans, injured her son Terrence Rideau II, or Little T, as his family calls him, a family attorney, Shonn Brown, told the jury. The injuries, occurring in 2009 and 2010, included a swollen left knee, a head contusion, a fractured thumb and a dislocated right knee, Rideau said.

Keller school district personnel ignored the abuse and neglected her child, Rideau said.

She and her husband sued the district in 2010, saying their son, now 18, regressed developmentally. They are seeking damages including medical and mental health expenses, punitive damages and attorney fees. The family sued in federal court, saying the district violated provisions of federal law protecting people with disabilities.

Little T’s brain damage was caused by acute encephalopathy, which was a complication of a bad vaccine, Rideau said. His injury robbed her son of the ability to walk and talk, but Little T crawled, laughed, smiled, cried and showed joy, she said.

Rideau described a happy young man who needed help to eat and to change his clothes.

“He’s in diapers and will probably be in them for the rest of his life,” Rideau said.

One of the first injuries the family noticed was a knot on Little T’s eyebrow, Rideau said. School personnel told her that a bug flew in an open window and bit him, Rideau said.

“He left for school perfectly fine,” Rideau said. “He came from school that way and they offered us that explanation. The knot looked like he had been hurt. We took him to the emergency room, and they said that the injury did not look like a bug bite.”

The lawsuit originally also named Evans, James Veitenheimer, the former superintendent, and Cindy Lotton, who was president of the school board. But they have been dropped.

The district’s attorneys argue that although Evans may have harmed the teen, the district is not responsible.

There were alternative explanations for one injury, and Little T was not even at school on May 26, 2009, when an initial knee injury took place, the district’s attorneys said.

Thomas Brandt, one of the district’s attorneys, guided Rideau through attendance records that showed Little T absent the day his knee was dislocated. Rideau challenged the accuracy of the records.

“When you are late to school, they mark you absent,” Rideau said.

Rideau testified that as she became aware of her son’s injuries, she asked district officials to install video cameras in special-education classes to monitor teachers and aides and asked that two people be present in the room when her son’s diaper was changed.

District officials refused her requests for cameras. And although they told her that two people would be present during diaper changes, Rideau said, she was never able to verify that.

Why didn’t she take her son out of the school, her attorney asked.

“I didn’t take him out of school because I didn’t know what was going on,” Rideau said. “I knew something was going on, but I didn’t know what or who. I thought if I had two people, surely there would not be two rotten people doing something.”

Keller officials investigated the parents’ suspicions and produced a report, Rideau said.

“Evans yanked some kid around by his belt,” Rideau recalled the report saying. “Then Evans ate some child’s snack and ate someone’s lunch. I was crying for someone else’s child and relieved that it’s not my child. Then I saw where he kicked my son. That was my child he kicked.”

Evans resigned on May 10, 2011.

The trial continues this week in U.S. District Judge Terry Means’ court.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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