CCSD to pay $900K to settle claims over restraint of autistic student

Updated June 12, 2017 - 8:06 pm

The family of an autistic student will receive $900,000 from the Clark County School District to settle claims the student was improperly restrained by a teacher’s aide during the 2011-12 school year.

A binding arbitration award settles two lawsuits — one federal and one state — in which John and Dina Phipps alleged that Lachelle James, a former teacher’s aide, abused their then-11-year-old son, a nonverbal autistic student who attended Variety School in Las Vegas.

In at least one video from a hidden camera, James was seen holding the child down on the floor, according to the arbitration award. Once released, the child tried to crawl under a table to hide.

The award did not include further descriptions about how James improperly restrained the child, but the district said James had been trained on the proper techniques.

The $900,000 figure was confirmed by the family’s lawyer, Robert Murdock. He represented the Phippses in both cases with attorney Marty Keach. The parties made a decision to go to arbitration in October, and the award was finalized at the end of May.

In the initial complaint, the family alleged 72 counts of battery by James, seeking the maximum $100,000 in damages for each count for a total of $7.2 million.

A three-member arbitration panel agreed the child was subject to multiple batteries and inappropriate physical restraint by the teacher’s aide, but they disagreed on the amount of the award. Two arbitrators recommended a $900,000 award, while the third recommended the award should be no higher than $500,000, according to the filing.

Records show James, who was 28 when she was arrested in March 2012, was moved to the boy’s classroom in November 2011. She pleaded guilty in June 2014 to two counts of gross misdemeanor child abuse, neglect or endangerment and was sentenced to probation.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

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