Lawsuit: Special needs students were physically abused at DCPS schools

A lawsuit filed in July alleges staff members at two separate schools physically abused four D.C. Public Schools students during the 2019 school year.

Three of the incidents happened at River Terrace Education Campus, a school that specifically caters to special needs students, according to the complaint.

Gold Ukegbu says her 13-year-old daughter, who uses a wheelchair and is developmentally disabled, came home one day in October 2019 with a broken leg. She believes the injury happened on the watch of staff members.

"She can't talk. She can't say how she feels, but you can see it on her face," Ukegbu said.

In another alleged case at the school, a police report says three adults witnessed a staff member slap a male student in the face. The United State's Attorney's Office declined to prosecute.

In a third incident, a staff member allegedly pushed a child and locked them in a closet.

Finally, the lawsuit says, at Walker-Jones Education Campus, a staff member put their hand over a child's mouth and nose, temporarily stopping them from being able to breathe.

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The lawsuit says in each of the incidents staff members involved were allowed to continue working in the schools immediately after the assaults.

Yaida Ford, an attorney for the four parents, says parents were never given copies of DCPS incident reports or informed about the conclusions of the system's investigations.

"In all these cases sometimes it was escalating. There were marks on the back. It was a broken finger and then all of the sudden a kid's being locked in a closet or they come home with a broken leg and so because DCPS is not accountable to these parents this is exactly how the problem is allowed to persist," Ford said.

The lawsuit seeks new training for DCPS staff and $20 million in damages.

In a statement, a DCPS spokesman told FOX 5:

"DCPS is committed to providing every student, including those with disabilities, with a high-quality education that improves their academic outcomes and prepares them for life-long for success. We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and while we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are actively working with the Office of the Attorney General to address the lawsuit."

The U.S. Attorney's Office had no comment on why it did not file charges against the staff members accused of abuse.