BRENTWOOD, Calif. -
On Jan.11, the Brentwood Union School District agreed to a $950,000, settlement with a Contra Costa family whose special needs child was verbally, physically and mentally abused by a Loma Vista Elementary teacher in 2010.
On May 25, 2010, Dina Holder, a Loma Vista Elementary School special needs teacher, attacked a five-year-old child who was enrolled in her Brentwood Union School District class.
Reports said Holder pulled the boy from his seat. The boy then fell to the ground and Holder allegedly kicked him twice. Holder then berated the child and used profanity and derogatory language.
“My son was attacked by the first teacher he ever had, and he’ll have to deal with that trauma for the rest of his life” said Caneel Carlin, the mother the child.
“To make matters worse, he came home with a bruise, but the school district didn’t even tell me about what happened until about a week later. Neither the principal nor the district contacted the police. My husband and I had to pursue criminal action, and the school obstructed our efforts every step of the way.".
Once the abuse was reported to the police, the Contra Costa County district attorney filed charges against Holder. She pleaded no contest to misdemeanor child abuse.
Prior to this incident, Ms. Holder had a long history of endangering children in her care.
“The abuse towards this young boy could have been prevented, but there was a systematic failure of school district employees to comply with their mandatory duty to report suspected child abuse,” said the family’s attorney, Peter Alfert.
“Numerous school employees were aware of Ms. Holder’s unfitness, but they were either too scared to report her misconduct or were unaware of their obligations as mandatory reporters to report her actions to the police. The school and the district failed children with special needs and their parents by not ensuring classrooms were safe,” he added.
Additional problems were uncovered during the legal case against Holder. They included:
· Aides testified that Holder used profanity in the classroom and spent most of the time in class playing solitaire.
· Previously, a parent told the principal that she saw Holder shaking a three-year-old child so violently that his head was shaking.
· A special needs child claimed to have been slapped by an adult at the school. The adult was later identified as Holder.
· An aide observed Holder restraining a child by taping his legs to a chair with masking tape.
· A child with down syndrome who was supposed to be in Holder’s classroom was found wandering around campus.
· It was later discovered that, according to the State of California, Holder did not have the proper credentialing to teach children with autism, of whom there were many in her class.
“The school district was beyond negligent in protecting some of our most vulnerable and special needs children,” stated Todd Boley, also an attorney for the family. “Even though Ms. Holder eventually pleaded no contest to child abuse, she was simply transferred to another school and parents of the school weren’t even notified! It took this lawsuit and settlement to finally get her out of the classroom,” he added.
While Ms. Carlin is relieved to know that the school district has been held accountable and Ms. Holder will no longer teach, she believes more needs to be done to ensure that schools are a safe place for special needs children who are often unable to defend themselves.
“We trusted the school to keep our son safe” said Ms. Carlin. “But they failed us and every other parent who sent a child to that school. There is no excuse for what happened or for the school to not report what happened. It’s their legal and moral obligation. They must do better,” she added.
Ms. Carlin’s son is now in a new school and is improving thanks, in part, to a great teacher. He has even transitioned to a mainstream classroom. But his mother is concerned that the he will forever live with the scars of a violent and traumatizing first classroom experience.