Suit alleging autistic girl restrained in LaPorte class is settled

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An Indiana couple who accused staffers at an elementary school four years ago of strapping their autistic then-7-year-old daughter into a homemade restraining chair in the classroom have settled their lawsuit against the district, the couple announced.

The settlement of the federal lawsuit reached this week between the LaPorte County School District and Heather and Charles Castle was announced just days before their federal lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial next Monday, the South Bend Tribune reported. An attorney for the couple, Corbin Fowler, said the terms of the agreement are confidential.

A district spokeswoman did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment. Kevin Vanderground, an attorney for the district, said it still denies the couple’s allegations that their daughter was ever restrained.

The couple’s lawsuit, filed in 2018, alleges that their daughter’s special education teacher and two paraprofessionals at Kingsford Heights Elementary School in La Porte tied their daughter down to a plywood chair with a belt, causing bruises and abrasions to her body.

According to the suit, the parents became concerned about how their daughter, Kennedi, was being treated after she returned from school wearing no socks, shoes or coat, then came home the next month with bruises that her teacher said were caused by a fall.

The Castles became more concerned when their daughter, according to the lawsuit, began to exhibit “new and troubling behaviors” at home that included emotional outbursts and a refusal to wear a seat belt.

Charles Castle alleged in the suit that after the school prevented him from escorting his daughter into her classroom each morning, he walked inside in the fall of 2017 to discover a homemade wooden restraint desk with his daughter’s name on it and a tan belt next to it.

The couple alleged that their daughter’s individualized education plan did not allow for the use of a restraint chair, and the Castles said they never received an incident report detailing the use of restraint.

“We’re very happy with the settlement,” said Heather Castle. “Of course, the settlement is for Kennedi. It’s something no family or child should have to go through; it shouldn’t be like this.”

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