Parents of Aaron Hatcher, a former special needs student at Roswell High School in Atlanta, Ga., have filed a $10.5 million lawsuit against the district and 15 Fulton County public school employees, claiming their son died after a teacher physically abused him, WGCL-TV reports.
The boy's parents, Ronald and Arthelia Hatcher, claim Roswell High School teacher Katherine Dorn Durden forced Aaron to wear a homemade neck brace to turn his head to face the classroom, according to Jarrod Oxendine, the family's attorney. They believe that Durden's actions led to their son's death last March. The Courthouse News Service details the lawsuit's account of the alleged abuse, saying the brace constricted Aaron's breathing:
"While in Mrs. Durden's class, Aaron came home with bruises on his back and hands, making it clear that he was not being properly secured in his chair. Further, and without parental or medical consent, Mrs. Durden took it upon herself to twist and then constrain Aaron's neck in a makeshift neck brace apparently because she did not like the way Aaron was forced to twist his neck in order to breathe. While a student in Mrs. Durden's class, Aaron was repeatedly rushed to the hospital from school as a result of the abuse."
Ronald Hatcher told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he even sought medical intervention to stop the teacher from restraining him with the brace -- to no avail.
"I went to the doctor and got a letter to tell them to stop this," Ronald Hatcher told AJC. "They would not listen to me. He would have to sit a certain way in order for him to breathe. Several times he would go to the hospital from school cold blue."
The lawsuit also accuses Hopewell Middle School teacher Melanie Pickens of assault and battery, false imprisonment and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on Aaron. An investigation by state and county officials found that Pickens had had her teacher's license revoked by the state after abusing other students she was responsible for -- including Aaron.
Along with Durden's neck brace, the AJC reports that Perkins "passed gas" in Aarons face and overturned his wheelchair.
According to the lawsuit, the family seeks compensatory and punitive damages for assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, negligent hiring and retention, constitution violations, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act and several Georgia state laws.
WXIA-TV reports that a spokesperson for the school district declined to comment on the litigation, and that the district's legal team has not yet received the lawsuit.