A motion has been filed to accept a settlement in a lawsuit that alleged a teacher restrained a child with special needs to a chair during nap time.
Heather Duckworth said in court filings from Aug. 17, 2018, that her child is nonverbal and has Angelman syndrome, which causes developmental delays. Duckworth said on three separate occasions the child’s aunt and grandmother saw the child restrained to the chair while other children were allowed to move about freely, or lay on mats.
The teacher, Linda Lindsay, still was employed by BCPS in December as a teacher’s assistant, but was suspended with pay from her position as a teacher for nearly three months while the claims were investigated by BCPS. The school system said no evidence of misconduct or negligence were found.
In the settlement documents filed Tuesday at the Burke County Courthouse, attorneys for Duckworth and the school system have agreed to a settlement that would see Burke County Public Schools pay the Duckworth family $80,000, with $44,000 of it going to the child’s benefit and $36,000 going to Duckworth’s individual claims.
Among the $44,00 going to the child’s benefit, $14,666.66 will be supplied as attorneys’ fees, $7,636.72 will be used or half of the litigation expenses incurred and $3,000 will be paid to a company for administration of a special needs trust. The remaining $18,696.62 will be put into a special needs trust in the child’s name.
Of the $36,000 to be paid for Duckworth’s individual claims, $12,000 will be disbursed as attorneys’ fees, $7,636.72 will be used to cover the remaining litigation expenses and the remaining $16,363.28 will be paid to Duckworth.
In the settlement documents, the school system still denies the claim that the child was improperly restrained, and disputes injuries the child allegedly suffered from its use of a “positional chair.”
“Defendants deny any and all liability in this matter, and the settlement in this matter is not to be construed as an admission of liability or an acquiescence to any claims or contentions of Plaintiffs by Defendants,” the documents said.
The settlement won’t be official unless the motion is accepted by the court at a hearing Feb. 25 at 9:30 a.m. in Courtoom 1 at the Burke County Courthouse, according to court documents.
At the set trial date for the lawsuit on Dec. 17, the judge presiding over the trial announced that the case had been settled, but school officials told The News Herald the documents were not yet finalized and they did not have copies of any settlement documents to provide.
When The News Herald spoke to some of the members of the Burke County Board of Education on Dec. 19, they said they weren’t sure what terms of the settlement would be.
A reporter called board members again Friday. Board Chair Buddy Armour said board members hadn’t received any documents regarding the settlement.
“We haven’t received anything yet, we’re having our board meeting, you know, we’re going to have our ethics training on Tuesday the 28th, but no ... I haven’t seen anything,” Armour said.
He said the board wouldn’t know anything until the settlement was finalized, but that he expected the board’s attorney will let them know when that happens.
More information will be published as it becomes available.