BG Institutional Abuse & Neglect Team Secures Share of Record $11.75M Settlement for Special Needs Student Abused at Holz Elementary
Bailey & Glasser, LLP partners Sharon Iskra and Samuel Hrko were among lawyers representing disabled students in an aggregate settlement of $11.75 million for the infliction of verbal and physical abuse upon them by school staff in the special needs classroom at Holz Elementary in Charleston, West Virginia. The settlement is the largest ever entered against a public school board in West Virginia history. The amounts of the individual settlements are confidential, with Ms. Iskra and Mr. Hrko obtaining a share of the award for their single client based on the Kanawha County Board of Education’s negligent retention and supervision of teacher Nancy Boggs and classroom aides Lisa Perdue and Lori Gibson.
Boggs’ abuse included acts such as banging children's heads on desks, slapping and yanking them, and degrading them by forcing them to sit on the floor with their noses in a hole in the wall and to eat out of the classroom sink. She also verbally terrorized students by yelling that they were “bad to the bone,” “stupid," and that “mommy doesn’t care,” among other taunts.
Classroom videos show abuse occurring on multiple days while aides Lisa Perdue and Lori Gibson observed this abuse, but failed to act. Because of their disabilities, the students were helplessly unable to self-report. Eventually, a bus aide noticed that one child had a split lip, and an investigation began.
Boggs pled guilty to the crimes and is serving a 10-year sentence for 10 counts of misdemeanor battery. Lisa Perdue entered a pre-trial diversion agreement. The trial of Lori Gibson commenced with jury selection on Monday, July 31st.
Ms. Iskra and Mr. Hrko were pleased to bring their young client and family the added element of closure only obtainable through civil suit. “The criminal justice system only partially rights the wrong: it punishes the perpetrators, but it does not hold institutions like the Board of Education accountable for their negligence in allowing this to happen in the first place, and it does nothing to compensate traumatized children or pay for the future care they now need. We are honored to have brought that much-needed additional relief,” Ms. Iskra said, adding: “We will continue to speak on behalf of the voiceless. People say, ‘this has to stop happening’, but it won’t unless we persevere in holding offenders and facilities accountable for every penny of damage.”