CINCINNATI (AP) — The parents of five physically and mentally disabled children have sued their former teacher, claiming she abused them for months and school officials did nothing to stop it and later tried to cover it up.
The parents in southwestern Ohio's Warren County filed a federal civil rights lawsuit this week against former teacher Amanda Kitcho. The lawsuit also names the current and former principals of Columbia Elementary School and the Kings Local School District's board of education, saying the administration ignored repeated complaints about Kitcho from her co-workers.
The allegations detailed in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, are based on depositions of Columbia Elementary staff in January 2012 during an investigation by the district. The parents, whose children have limited-to-no speech abilities, didn't learn of the allegations until July 2013 and only after a citizen activist named Kim Grant — now a Kings school board member — won a lawsuit to obtain copies of the depositions, according to the lawsuit.
Kitcho's attorney, John Doll, said his client denies all the allegations.
"She's a passionate, very good teacher," Doll said. "She loved her children and treated them special just like they deserved, and she's offended by the charges and will defend herself just like she has in the past."
District Superintendent Valerie Browning declined to comment, citing advice from attorneys.
The parents are identified in the lawsuit with their initials only. The children are also identified in the lawsuit with only their initials.
The lawsuit accused Kitcho, 33, of abusing five students at Columbia Elementary from November 2010 to May 2011 and says she specifically targeted a then-11-year-old girl with several physical disorders that reduce muscle tone, motor skills and intellectual disability and limit life expectancy.
Kitcho is accused of duct-taping the girl to a chair, repeatedly forcing her to crawl on the floor even though she is dependent on a walker and frequently secluding her in a classroom bathroom for prolonged periods of time despite her screams to be let out, according to the lawsuit.
The girl later was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said Kitcho neglected the other students' hygiene issues, took their snacks, screamed at them, forced one student to sit in her own vomit when she experienced seizures and once intentionally knocked a table into another student's mouth.
The lawsuit alleges the abuse continued for months even after multiple school employees complained about Kitcho, including a teacher's aide who resigned when her complaints fell on deaf ears.
The Warren County sheriff's office began investigating Kitcho in February 2012 after the school librarian reported her. A sheriff's investigator concluded that Kitcho was "extremely mean-spirited, verbally abusive and cruel toward these handicapped students and has no business teaching handicapped children," the lawsuit says.
Prosecutor David Fornshell said Friday that although the allegations were "very disturbing," his office didn't file any charges against Kitcho because there was insufficient evidence of criminal conduct.
Kitcho resigned from the school district shortly after the sheriff's investigation in an agreement that allowed her to collect severance and leave with a letter of recommendation from Assistant Superintendent Tina Blair, who wrote that Kitcho's performance was "distinguished in demonstrating knowledge of students" and "creating an environment of respect and rapport."
It's unclear whether Kitcho, who lives in Maineville about 25 miles northeast of Cincinnati, is teaching somewhere else. The lawsuit says the Ohio Department of Education is investigating her. An agency spokesman declined to confirm that.