A Carthage family is suing the Carthage R-9 School District claiming a former teacher caused physical and emotional abuse against a special needs child, and current administrators failed to protect the child.

A Carthage family is suing the Carthage R-9 School District claiming a former teacher caused physical and emotional abuse against a special needs child, and current administrators failed to protect the child.
The suit, filed on May 16, pits the plaintiff, a minor identified by the initials J.W.M. in the filing, and next friends, Amanda and Kenny Smith, against defendants Deborah Westmoreland, a former teacher, Columbian Principal Brian Shallenburger, Carthage Superintendent Sean Smith and the district.
Westmoreland, when contacted by The Carthage Press by Facebook Messenger, said “I'll need to refer you back to the district for any comments.”
Smith, speaking for the district, responded in a written statement emailed to The Press.
“The District is aware that a suit was recently filed,” Smith said. “We cannot provide comment on pending legal matters but will say that Ms. Westmoreland's employment with the District ended on June 30, 2016, and that student safety is the District's first priority.”
In the suit, the plaintiffs said J.W.M. was diagnosed as autistic, making him non-verbal and unable to communicate effectively with people around him.
The suit said the boy was otherwise a “pleasant young man, who up until the time of these events, enjoyed spending time with his family and receiving special educational services from the Carthage R-9 School District.”
The suit said the family noticed changes in their child in the 2014-2015 school year when the boy “started crying and suffering from daily disturbances anytime he was taken near the school.”
The suit said the boys mother was concerned about the way Westmoreland was treating the boy, saying she saw the teacher physically restrain him in the hall at the school and that “she was not allowed to observe the classroom activity.”
The suit says a complaint was filed with the Children's Division and an investigation determined that Westmoreland had “stepped on J.W.M.'s fingers and rubbed his face in spit on the floor.”
The suit includes allegations from the Children's Division report that another paraprofessional reported several concerns about Westmoreland's behavior in class.
It also includes statements from the investigation that Shallenburger was aware of Westmoreland's actions “stating to the Children's Division that 'Ms. Westmoreland can be aggressive.'”
The suit says the Children's Division interviewed Westmoreland and she told them “No one has ever told me that I handled students aggressively.”
It says Westmoreland told the Children's Division she “has accidentally stepped on children's fingers. Ms Westmoreland refutes the allegations of dropping children and rubbing their faces in spit.”
The suit accuses the defendants of seven specific counts of alleged negligence and seeks “damages against the defendants in the way of compensatory and punitive damages as a result of the foregoing acts and/or omissions, together with the plaintiff's cost and expenses incurred in this action.”
The district had not filed a response to this suit as of press time Tuesday.