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3 lawsuits filed against Ashtabula County school allege abuse of students with developmental disabilities

1lawsuit claims aide fired for sounding alarm
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Posted at 5:28 PM, Dec 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-13 18:41:22-05

ASHTABULA COUNTY, Ohio — Three lawsuits have been filed against a school for special needs children in Ashtabula County.

The lawsuits, filed against Ashtabula County Educational Service Center, claim vulnerable students were physically and mentally abused by classroom staff.

A teacher’s aide also filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired for sounding the alarm.

Attorney Jared Klebanow is the voice for two girls with numerous disabilities he says endured physical and mental abuse at the beginning of the 2022 school year at the school.

"Some of these students aren't verbal and some of these students can't walk,” said Klebanow.

Klebanow claims the children’s class had a teacher who wasn’t trained in special needs, a nurse and part-time teacher’s aide.

He says the teacher and nurse humiliated students, describing how one girl with limited mobility was ridiculed for not being able to wipe her nose and forced to sit in a wet pull up.

"She had her lunch put inches from her reach, something that she couldn't reach, and they knew that they watched her struggle to get her lunch,” Klebanow said.

According to Klebanow, the girl’s grandmother went to the principal after her granddaughter started acting out at home and spoke with other parents with similar issues.

"When she went and said, 'hey, something has to be done about this,' the general response was well, we don't have people to fill it, so we're going to leave them in place,” Klebanow said.

Two lawsuits were filed in federal court on behalf of two girls, and a third lawsuit was filed in Ashtabula Common Pleas Court by a part-time aide who Klebanow said was fired after speaking up about what she witnessed.

According to the former aide’s lawsuit, she witnessed an abusive nurse and the teacher either did nothing or encouraged it.

She reported what she saw to the principal.

"Instead of disciplining and punishing those who are the wrongdoers, she was put on leave and eventually terminated from her position,” Klebanow said.

The principal referred our questions to the superintendent.

Superintendent Mike Candela sent News 5 this statement:

“We take any allegations of mistreatment of our children very seriously. We are conducting a full and comprehensive investigation of all of the allegations. The investigation will not only include the school, but also the local police department, The Ashtabula County board of DD Investigative Services, and Ashtabula County Children Services. Providing our children with the care they deserve IS our top priority. I assure you we will do everything in our power to protect our children. This is an active and ongoing investigation, and I cannot comment beyond that.”

Ashtabula Children Services confirmed it is investigating matters on its end.

The Ashtabula County Board of Developmental Disabilities said it is aware of the allegations and will assist Children Services in any way.

"It shouldn't take lawsuits being filed against a school for an investigation to get launched,” Klebanow.

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