Parents Win CA Teacher-Abuse Court Trial: Jury Awards $700,000

By Rodney Foo for the San Jose Mercury News.

We almost missed reprinting this report which appeared earlier this month. Thanks to Paul Naleid for the heads-up. -Ed.

The parents of a 10-year-old girl diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome were awarded $700,000 Wednesday by a federal jury in San Jose that found a Cupertino Union School District special-education teacher had abused the child.

The seven jurors, who listened to testimony for eight days, deliberated for five hours before rendering their verdict — a decision hailed by Craig and Ann Gaydos, parents of Paige Gaydos, and questioned by attorney Mark Davis, who represented the district.

“We’re totally vindicated,” Craig Gaydos said from his home in Colorado, where he is watching Paige and his three other children. “It’s an absolute relief that it’s over. All we wanted to say all along was that Cupertino had a problem and needed to fix it.”

The Gaydos’ lawsuit alleged that Karen Miller, who taught at Eisenhower Elementary School, had abused their daughter, then 7, in various incidents in 2001 and 2002.

The accusations against Miller included rubbing a burrito in Paige’s face and hair; kicking the child’s foot and spinning her, resulting in a fall; and pushing the girl to the floor and sitting on her.

Special-education teachers are allowed to use physical restraint as a last resort if they are trained in proper techniques, district officials say.
The parents later learned about the incidents from a teacher’s aide who worked in Miller’s classes.

Paige has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a neurological disorder similar to autism.

Miller left the district in 2002 to teach in Clearlake.

In 2003, the Gaydos — saying their daughter had suffered emotional and physical pain — filed a lawsuit, setting up the trial before U.S.
District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel and the jury.

Davis said the evidence did not justify the jury’s award against the district.
“We don’t believe the evidence found or supported a finding of liability against any of the defendants,” Davis said. “And given the plaintiff’s injuries — a bump on the head and a bruise on the arm — that $700,000 was excessive.”

Davis, who also represented Miller, said his clients have several options, including asking Fogel for a new trial or asking him to reverse the judgment.
If so, the district will have to submit to Fogel its reasons for a reversal or new trial by March 3.

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