Parents of autistic boy sue Leander district, alleging bullying, sexual abuse by peers

The parents of a child with autism are suing the Leander school district, saying the district didn’t do enough to protect their son from repetitive bullying and alleged sexual abuse by his peers.

The child, whose name is withheld because he is a minor and an alleged victim, attended Mason Elementary School in Cedar Park. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Austin, states that the parents reported the bullying to school leaders in April 2007 and continued to notify the district of various incidents through April 2011.

The lawsuit says students called the child names, made fun of him, laughed at him and pushed him, and once, a student “punched (him) in the face.”

The suit also alleges that teachers daily sent the child to the bathroom with known bullies, even when the child did not need to go, and that the “bullies would yank (the child) out of the stall with his pants down, and make him touch his penis.” One boy touched the child’s genitals as well, according to the suit.

The child told his parents that the boys threatened him with physical harm if he didn’t follow their commands, the suit said.

The Cedar Park Police Department last year investigated the allegations of sexual abuse.

“The case was investigated thoroughly, and no criminal charges were filed as a result,” said Capt. Jeff Hayes. “We worked very closely with the county attorney’s office in the case to see if criminal charges were appropriate. If there would have been evidence, we would have pursued charges.”

The school district had not received the lawsuit as of Monday, said Veronica Sopher, district spokeswoman.

The district is prohibited by federal privacy laws to release any specific information about the situation and does not comment on pending litigation, she said.

“Our students’ security and social well-being are a priority for the district,” Sopher said. “The district takes every report of bullying seriously, and we have thorough processes in place to address bullying and prevention.”

The lawsuit states that “LISD intentionally failed to discipline the students for their improper behavior, which enabled the bullying and harassment to continue for over four years.”

The parents of the boy, now 11, are suing the district, the superintendent and 16 teachers and special education therapists for unspecified damages for their son’s medical and mental health expenses, attorney’s fees and punitive and exemplary damages.

Reached by phone, the boy’s mother declined to comment. The parents’ attorney, Kimberly Gruber of Austin, said, “We’re still waiting on their response and continuing to investigate everything.”

The Leander school district has been sued at least two other times this year by parents who allege the district did little to protect their children from bullying. In both cases, law enforcement investigated but took no action.

Parents of autistic boy sue Leander district, alleging bullying, sexual abuse by peers.

Jimmy Kilpatrick, a national recognized professional special education advocate since 1994.

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