BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles Unified School District on behalf of a boy with a speech and language impairment, who alleged he was verbally and physically abused by his preschool teacher in 2019 and that the principal did nothing about it.
The boy, now 7 years old, is identified only as K.D. in the Beverly Hills Superior Court lawsuit brought on his behalf by his mother. The boy was enrolled at 54th Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles.
On Nov. 3, Judge Edward Moreton Jr. trimmed the boy’s case, dismissing the causes of action for assault, battery, and one of the civil rights violations claims, but allowing the case to proceed on the intentional infliction of emotional distress and a second civil rights violation allegation.
The attorneys informed the judge of the settlement during a final status conference Tuesday. The terms of the settlement, which were not stated in the minute order prepared by Moreton’s clerk, will have to be approved by the judge because the plaintiff is a minor. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30.
According to the suit filed in September 2020, teacher Roberta Brandt ” was allowed to emotionally and physically torment K.D. because he could not speak up for himself and because Principal (Haywood) Thompson and LAUSD did nothing to protect him.”
K.D. was a preschool student at the school and was 4 years old at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, according to the suit, which stated he was eligible for special education services because he has a speech and language impairment.
Brandt was inexperienced with children with individualized education plans such as that provided to K.D., the suit states. In the five years including and preceding the 2019-2020 school year, Brandt had only three students with IEPs and admitted she had no training in interventions with children with significant behavioral problems, the suit alleged.
Brandt said the boy’s behavior was a “significant challenge” for her and she was “overwhelmed” by his behavior, the suit alleged. She called the child’s mother three times, telling her to find K.D. a different school because he was having behavioral difficulties that Brandt could not handle, according to the plaintiff’s court papers.
Although Brandt had all her other students sleep inside during their naps, she forced K.D. to sleep unsupervised outside on the ground in the dirt, according to the suit. Thompson was so concerned for K.D.’s well-being that he picked the boy up and took him into his office to finish napping, the suit alleged.
In September 2019, Brandt took K.D. behind the classroom, stooped down to the boy’s level, put her hands on his shoulders, and shook him so hard that his head flopped back and forth, the suit alleges. A crossing guard allegedly saw the teacher “violently shake” K.D. and told the child’s grandfather.
The grandfather removed K.D. from school for the day, notified the principal, spoke with the police, and took his grandson to a hospital, according to the suit.
The suit alleges the boy “was badly injured and traumatized by Ms. Brandt’s repeated shaking of him,” and his mother subsequently enrolled her son in another school out of concern for his safety.
Brandt’s alleged abuse of K.D. was motivated by his being Black and having a disability, the plaintiff claims. The teacher was not as violent with students who were not Black or disabled, according to the suit.
Thompson never spoke to Brandt about her alleged order to make the boy sleep outside on a dirty rug, the suit states. Prior to the 2019 shaking incident, the principal did not tell the boy’s parents or grandparents about the teacher’s alleged mistreatment of the child, according to the lawsuit.
In their court papers, attorneys for the LAUSD and Thompson stated that an administrative law judge concluded after a hearing that Brandt did not intend to harm the boy when she allegedly shook him.
K.D. had behavioral problems, including screaming, running around the classroom, and pushing and hitting other students, the defense attorneys stated in their court papers.
“On one occasion, (K.D) was so disruptive during nap time that Brandt allowed him to nap outside her front door,” the defense attorneys’ court papers state.
But in their court papers, K.D.’s lawyers stated that the administrative law judge indeed found that Brandt abused the boy by shaking him.