New Details Emerge After Parent Sues School District In Abuse And Neglect Case

bentonville lawsuit top sheet

BENTONVILLE (KFSM) – The attorney for a parent suing the Bentonville School District submitted an amended complaint in federal court Wednesday, releasing new details on allegations of physical abuse and educational neglect against the school district and Vista Health Systems.

The lawsuit claims the health center and the school district colluded to secretly move a Kindergarten student from the district to Vista Health during the 2012-13 school year without the knowledge or consent of his mother, identified in the federal lawsuit as Brittany O.

The amended complaint filed Wednesday states the young boy was placed in restraints at Vista Health and typically received less than two hours of instruction a day. His educational standing did not improve while in Vista Health’s custody during the school year, but officials refused to transfer him back to the school district, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also names two Vista Health employees as additional co-defendants. Veronica Odum, a program manager at Vista Health’s day treatment center, was named as a defendant. The lawsuit claims she “subjected (the child) to physical restraints and seclusions while at Vista (Health).”

Allen Morrison is the other Vista Health employee named in the lawsuit. He is a licensed professional counselor who provided outpatient counseling services to the child, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint claims the student was forced to go to Vista Health’s day treatment center each day for educational instruction, whether his teacher was there or not. He was only given three days off per year, and family who wanted to spend more time with him over Spring Break were told such plans would sidetrack his treatment, according to the federal lawsuit.

While the alleged victim’s former classmates in the Bentonville School District took assessments to gauge their academic progress, the boy was given no such assessments and his education suffered, the lawsuit states.

The suit claims the student’s mother was also not allowed to view the mental health facility’s teaching methods on her son. The boy was taught from worksheets printed from online sources, rather than from qualified teachers working from the latest resources, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states the boy was transferred to the day treatment center because of ADHD diagnosis and because he was Medicaid-eligible. The parent alleges the child was misplaced into the Vista Health program because of Medicaid benefits and payments the program received from the school district. The plaintiff said she tried to get her son out of the program, but was not allowed to retrieve him from the care of Vista Health.

The mother initially filed the lawsuit in federal court in March against the Bentonville School District, Vista Health and the Arkansas Department of Education. Among those named as defendants in the lawsuit are Supt. Michael Poore; Tanya Sharp, director of special education; Brad Reed, director of student services; and Tom Kimbrell, state Department of Education commissioner. Several other officials are also named in the lawsuit.

While in Vista Health’s care, the child was assaulted and abused, while being physically restrained, the lawsuit claims. The child and his parent “suffered irreparable harm,” including “emotional distress and other injuries, and have incurred actual damages in an undetermined amount,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit does not specifically state what instances of assault or abuse the boy may have encountered through Vista Health, but lawyer Theresa Caldwell said workers would sometimes physically grab and move the boy, leaving marks and bruises.

Caldwell represents the mother in the case. Caldwell said she documented about 250 instances of physical restraint and abuse.

The suit seeks punitive damages, as well as compensatory damages “in an amount sufficient to fully compensate (the) plaintiff and (the child) for their injuries, damages and losses.”

The complaint claims the boy’s First, Fourth and 14th amendment rights were violated, along with rights afforded to him by various disability and disability education laws. The defendants also did not follow the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, by not allowing the student to be properly evaluated for academic achievement, the lawsuit states.

New Boston Enterprises, Inc., was also named as a defendant in the case. New Boston Enterprises is the parent company of Texarkana Behavioral Associates, L.C. The lawsuit states Texarkana Behavioral Associates is a foreign for-profit corporation that collects Medicaid-eligible school children who meet Medicaid guidelines as having a “serious emotional disturbance” as clients.

Texarkana Behavioral Associates does business in Arkansas under the Vista Health name, the lawsuit states.

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