A lawsuit seeking monetary damages will be filed against the Orange Unified School District over physical and psychological abuse an elementary school teacher and aide inflicted on a student with autism and epilepsy, an attorney announced Wednesday.
The announcement prompted school district officials to issue a statement of their own claiming investigations by police and the district uncovered no evidence of teacher misconduct.
Besides Orange Unified, the suit attorney Michael Kinslow said he will file on behalf of the family of Andrew Ashline names as defendants: administrators Debbie Bennett, Denise MacAllister and Marcia Schoger; Palmyra Elementary School Principal Larry Hausner; teacher Jayme Barks; and classroom aides Jared Robinson, Kelly Esparza and Nadia Quebrado.
Speaking in front of the district offices on North Handy Street in Orange Wednesday morning, Kinslow alleged non-verbal, 11-year-old Andrew "was physically and psychologically abused" multiple times while a student at Palmyra during the 2012-2013 academic school year.
The abuse was brought to the attention of the boy's parents by a "courageous" health aide, according to the Mission Viejo-based attorney, who added that witness also spoke to police and school district officials.
The allegations prompted Andrew's parents to remove him from the school while they investigated the claims. Joanne Ashline claims she discovered that during a field trip, Barks and an aide dragged her son half a mile to his classroom, where he was pinned to the ground for upwards of 12 minutes. The mother showed off a photo of her son with facial scars, describing the "self-mutilation" as the only way Andrew could express his frustration over the abuse.
(The "about" page on the mother of two's blog, A Sweet Dose of Truth, says she "is passionate about writing, especially about her experiences raising her special needs son," and that she freelances for the Orange County Register and was named one of Orange County's Inspirational Moms of 2013 in OC Family magazine.)
To seek justice for Andrew and hold those responsible accountable, the Ashlines are filing the civil suit, according to Kinslow, who said monetary damages are all he can legally seek to punish wrongdoers because the abuse cannot be undone.
Michael Ashline, Andrew's father, added he hopes the suit will prevent similar abuse against other children. His attorney asked that anyone else with children who have been abused in Orange Unified schools to contact him at 949.288.6678, 949.282.9494 or via email at email@example.com.
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After seeking a reaction from Orange Unified Superintendent Michael Christensen, the Weekly was emailed the statement from his office that follows on the next page.