SIOUX CITY | A federal jury on Friday sided with the Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community School District over the parents of an autistic child whom they said was dragged across a carpeted floor by his teacher.
Suzanne and Kevin Gosch had sought $10 million in damages from the school district, special education teacher Miranda Riediger and principal Kelly Adams for claims of negligence and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
At issue was a Jan. 30, 2014, incident in which Riediger was accused of dragging the boy, at the time a first-grader at Sergeant Bluff-Luton Primary School, by the ankles across a carpeted floor and causing carpet burns to the child's shoulder blades and down the middle of his back.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton superintendent Rod Earleywine said the verdict, reached after six days of trial testimony, supported a finding by the Iowa State Department of Education that Riediger had acted appropriately.
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"Mrs. Riediger did what was necessary and reasonable for the safety of the child involved and the safety of the other children in the room. Special education and education, in general, presents many challenges. The highly trained and exceptionally well-qualified teachers, administration and staff of the Sergeant Bluff School District will continue to dedicate itself to doing the best job possible to meet the needs of all of its students, parents and the community," Earleywine said in a news release.
The boy's parents were visibly upset as they left the courtroom after the verdict was read. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, attorney David O'Brien, who represented the family, said the verdict was hard to accept.
"We're very disappointed by the verdict, and we disagree with the verdict but we respect their decision," O'Brien said.
According to the lawsuit, filed in December 2015 in U.S. District Court in Sioux City, the boy, who had been diagnosed with autism and also has epilepsy, ADHD and asthma, had left his desk, laid down on the floor and began kicking and moving his hands in the air but did not make any physical contact with other students or staff. He did not respond to Riediger's request to return to his seat, and she could not lift him into a sitting position.
According to the lawsuit, Riediger then grabbed the boy and dragged him across the floor, stopping when he cried out, "Stop, my back."
The parents also said in the lawsuit that they had not been notified of the incident until he was picked up from the school two hours later. The lawsuit said that the boy, who no longer attends school in Sergeant Bluff, experienced anxiety, fear and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after the incident.