Mothers sue special education teacher for abuse Mothers sue special education teacher for abuse
By The Associated Press
Commercial Appeal, July 25, 2004

JACKSON, Tenn. - Two mothers have filed lawsuits totaling $18 million against a former Henderson County special education teacher, alleging misconduct and abuse of their children.

Diana Ray Moore filed a $9 million lawsuit July 12 against Susan Wallace, a former special education teacher at Beaver Elementary School, on behalf of her 6-year-old son, who has Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, a condition associated with mental retardation.

Three days later, Lisa Mooney filed essentially the same suit on behalf of her 4-year-old son, who has a speech impediment that severely limits his ability to communicate.

The Henderson County Board of Education is named in both filings.

The lawsuits allege that Wallace "embarked on a systematic course of inappropriate and outrageous verbal and physical abuse" toward the children, which continued until she was removed from the classroom in April.

The mothers say their children were subject to abuses that included screaming and being hit with a fly swatter, ruler and Wallace's hands.

One complaint accuses Wallace of strapping the 6-year-old's arms and legs to a cot for hours at a time so she could conduct personal business. She also is accused of taping the 4-year-old's mouth "to avoid having to hear him attempt to speak," the suit says.

The lawsuit says the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney's office launched an investigation after parents complained. But Dist. Atty. Jerry Woodall declined to say whether such an investigation exists.

Wallace was fired after the investigation, according to the plaintiffs' attorney Brandon McWherter. But before that, no action was taken by the school board to prevent the abuse, he said.

The lawsuits each ask for a jury trial along with $1.5 million in compensatory damages, $3 million in punitive damages from the school board, and the same $4.5 million from Wallace.

Wallace, who couldn't be reached for contact, has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

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