Blind World Magazine

Parents sue Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

Salt Lake Tribune, Utah.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006.

Keiara Staley kept telling her parents she didn't want to go to school.

When the van pulled up to Darrell Oleson Jr.'s home to take him to the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, he would hide. Ashton Porter cried when it was time to go to class.

Their parents say they were concerned but because their children are deaf and had limited sign language skills, didn't know why they resisted going to the Ogden school - until caseworkers for the state called to interview the first-graders about complaints against their teacher.

The parents of the three youngsters and parents of two other students filed a lawsuit today accusing teacher Jacquilyn Shasky of abusing the children and school administrators of ignoring the mistreatment. The families contend the teacher slapped the students, pulled them by their arms until their feet lifted off the floor, pulled their hair, called them names and punished them for no reason.

Their legal action, filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, seeks an order barring any abuse and unspecified monetary damages.

School officials said they could not comment on a pending lawsuit or on personnel matters. They confirmed that Shasky no longer teaches there.

At a news conference outside the courthouse, the parents said school officials never told them there was a problem and ignored their questions about the investigation by the Utah Department of Children and Family Services.

That probe began in the fall of 2004 and concluded last spring, with finding that the complaints had been substantiated, according to the lawsuit. Dale Boam, the parents' lawyer, said criminal charges were never filed.

"Children were yanked by their arms. Two children [each] had a dislocated shoulder," said Marty Frahncke, father of now-8-year-old Noah.

"The administration knew about this abuse and didn't stop it."

Teresa Riccardi said her daughter, Ashton Porter, is unable to use sign language because she has cerebral palsy and couldn't reveal what was happening.

"Her face was smashed into her food because she wasn't eating fast enough," Riccardi said.

Boam filed a claim on the parents' behalf against the school in October, seeking policy changes, better training for personnel and compensation for injuries. The suit was filed after the school failed to respond.

"My hope is to hold people accountable for injuring children," Boam said.

Some of the children were pulled out of the school. Others still attend, but have a new teacher.

Seth Wilkins, who allegedly was hit in the head as punishment for not eating or not paying attention, is one of them. So is Keiara, whose parents moved from Wyoming so they could send her there.

As Brigham City residents, Riccardi and Jeff Porter have no option for Ashton but the Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Their daughter is doing better now that her former teacher is gone, they said.

Darrell, who is legally blind, deaf and has a shunt in his head, attends a new school. His parents, Robyn and Darrell Oleson, say they will not send him back to the Schools for the Deaf and Blind. "Our boy has suffered so much," Robyn Oleson said.

Susan Fahncke drives Noah an hour each way from their Kaysville home to a charter school in South Jordan. The commute is hard but "at least I know he's safe," she said.

End of article.

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