A suburban mother has filed suit against an elementary school after she said her 8-year-old son with severe autism was abused and neglected for more than four years.
Lucia Roden, the mother of Gianni Fata-Roden, accused Prairie Oak Elementary school in Berwyn’s District 98 of restraining her son by “tying him to a chair with exercise bands” in 2015, of losing her son on school premises last year and, most recently, of allowing someone to draw on her son’s back and neck with permanent marker.
“The school and its agents have allowed this severely autistic child to be battered and assaulted numerous times,” attorney John Chwarzynski said. “The mother and father of this child have suffered horrible emotional distress, as has their child.”
Roden said her son arrived home from school late last month and seemed “upset” as he got off a bus. She went to change his shirt and said she discovered what she believed was the reason why.
“Someone had drawn squiggly lines on his back and neck,” Roden said.
The family called the school but said they could not get an answer on what happened.
“Everybody’s just pointing the finger at someone else,” said the child’s father, Steven Roden.
Gianni is supposed to received one-on-one supervision and “never be out of the sight of a trained adult,” according to the family.
The district’s superintendent, Michelle Smith, wrote in a letter to parents that it is conducting its own investigation into what happened and has been cooperating with local authorities and notified the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
“Thus far, our review of video footage from the school bus and from the hallway cameras has not revealed anything that would cause us to take remedial action concerning any of our employees,” Smith wrote. “At this point, we don’t know the origin of the markings. We have shared that information with the student’s parents and with the police. But we will continue to look into the matter as any additional information becomes available.”
The district said the “health, safety and welfare of all students has always been and will continue to be our highest priority at Berwyn North District 98.”
The family’s lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages.
“This family has been through enough. It is time for the school to be held accountable,” Chwarzynski said in a statement.