Texas Teacher Abused Autistic Child, Stuffed Her In File Cabinet, Lawsuit Claims

On Jan. 27, Flor Nelson got a phone call from her daughter's school principal. There had been an incident, she was told. Her 9-year-old daughter, who has autism and is non-verbal, had been put in a filing cabinet by her special education teacher.

"I said 'OK,' " Nelson told AOL Jobs. "I guess I didn't understand that literally she was putting her in a filing cabinet drawer and closing it."

The principal of Juan Seguin Elementary in Richmond, Texas couldn't tell her anything else, she said. The teacher had been suspended and was under investigation -- an investigation that revealed that the filing cabinet incident was one of many alleged filing cabinet incidents, and a whole lot more, reports the Houston Chronicle.

After the teacher, 47-year-old Julie Gosch, purportedly pulled out a clump of hair from one of her student's heads, two of her teaching aides decided to email school administrators, describing months of abuse.

Gosch had allegedly called the students "losers," "stupid," "retarded" and "a bitch." She would hit and kick them, and let them eat food from the bathroom floor. She would lift their pants and underwear, exposing the students in front of the class, to see if they had "gone to the bathroom," and steal the students' snacks. She instructed the aides in how to hit the children, and would hallucinate in front of the class under the influence of prescription medication, according to a lawsuit filed by Nelson and another mother, Juana Sapon (pictured above). The teaching aides say it was Sapon's 9-year-old autistic daughter who had her hair torn out by Gosch.

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The day the aides sent their emails, the Fort Bend Independent School District and its police launched an investigation, and Gosch was placed on administrative leave with pay, pending its outcome, says a memo from the school district's human resources department. Later in the evening, the principal reportedly called the parents. A report was filed with Child Protective Services, according to the Chronicle (which broke the story), and the Texas Education Agency put Gosch under review.

But Nelson and Sapon aren't satisfied. "These are two non-verbal autistic 9-year-old girls," explains their lawyer, Clint McGuire. "So they would never be able to communicate what happened."

The mothers want to ensure that Gosch, who had been employed in the school district since 1993 and taught at that particular school for almost a decade, never sets foot in a classroom again. They also want video cameras installed in special education classrooms, so that there's some kind of accountability.

No previous allegations of abuse or neglect have ever been made against Gosch, and the principal at her previous school had no recollection of inappropriate behavior. Nelson says that she's met Gosch a few times before -- her daughter had been in her class for two years -- and hadn't noticed anything strange about her. "I never thought she was capable of doing this, or that she was this type of person," she said. "I don't understand what happened."

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McGuire believes that Gosch's father passed away sometime last year and she began taking prescription medication. The aides said that Gosch would occasionally take these drugs in front of the class, which would slur her speech, cause her to misremember names, hallucinate and make her seem "as if she is almost drunk."

Nelson not only heard reports that the teacher stuffed her daughter in a filing cabinet drawer several times -- which according to a school district memo Gosch admitted to officials -- but that Gosch also inappropriately kissed her daughter on the lips, and put the girl's face into her bosom after unbuttoning her own blouse. Nelson's daughter cannot speak, so would never be able to report these incidents. But she says that her daughter recently began stripping off her clothes and exposing herself at home. One of her daughter's therapists asked if she might have been sexually abused. Nelson believes that her daughter was imitating things that she saw in the classroom.

Recently several special education teachers have been accused of abusing their students. The parents of four students at Taft Elementary School in Orange, Calif., filed a lawsuit in March against a special education teacher for alleged physical abuse that included teasing, punching, and straddling and sitting on them. Earlier this month, a mother in Redwood City, Calif., handed the special education teacher of her 5-year-old son, who has autism, a $1 million lawsuit for allegedly kicking and starving him.

Nelson hopes to raise awareness of this problem, and gain support for placing video cameras in special education classrooms. Tapes planted by concerned parents have found abuse in the past. When the father of a 10-year-old boy with autism suspected that his son was being abused at Horace Mann Elementary in Cherry Hill, N.J., last February, he sent him to class with a hidden digital recorder. It's audio purportedly recorded the teacher and her aide teasing the child and calling him a "bastard."

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Leigh Frederick

My daughter, who is mentally challenged, spent many years in the local school system. We had many problems over the years, and it was a relief when she graduated. My advice to parents of kids with special needs: Keep the teachers and the system accountable and stay VISABLE on their radar. Make sure the teachers know that you will accept nothing less than excellence when dealing with your child, and in turn, with the rest of the special needs kids. I have high respect for teachers, my son teaches at the middle school level, and I know it is a challenging undertaking. But, you know your child much better than anyone else can possibly know them, and it is your responsibility to keep them from harm. Watch for queues, changes in their behavior or habits. If a child appears fearful, chances are he has a reason to be afraid. Advocate for your child at all times and do not ignore your gut instinct. Do not let the teachers or school officials ignore your gut instinct, either. You will never be sorry for being too careful, too caring, or too protective in the care of your child. May God Bless you and yours.

March 22 2013 at 10:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I should take the teacher, and tie her to the back bumper of my car and then drive on the interstate highway with her tied to the bumper, and drive past a few exits, and maybe she'll get it in her brain that she cannot be abusing autistic children, if she has a brain after being dragged several miles on the interstate.

November 11 2012 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Where are those AUTISM files????

November 11 2012 at 12:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Melinda Gallup

Why would the aides allow this to go on for MONTHS before sending an email? And why and email? I would have been calling the police and notifying the principal! Because the aides waited so long, they are also responsible for the abuse. They could have stopped it when it started! They should be fired as well! That teacher and those aides are lucky it wasn't my child. They would be 6 feet under.

July 20 2012 at 3:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This is one of the worst stories I've heard lately and brings back what happened to my son. He was a almost completely non-verbal but very sweet (by many people's estimate outside the family too). He was pushed off the monkeybars by another special ed child and the principal called me to come and pick up my child because he "fell" off the monkeybars and might need to see a doctor.

I found out what really happened after an aide finally told me. She worked with him personally for much of the day. There was a teacher and five aides there and only ten kids. But this kid (I'm not blaming him because he was severely autistic in, but in a different way) for some reason had it out for my kid, I was told. He would run across the room to strangle him when my son entered the classroom in the morning.

Later my kid was terrified by a couple of kids in the classroom who as they grew became quite aggressive. One kid would have big outbursts that scared my son so much the teacher said he was starting to spend most of his time under the table crying. The teacher tried putting earmuffs on my son and of course they removed the boy and took him to another room to calm down -- but my son was still very afraid. By the time my son was ten and eleven, he was crying and physically resisting going to school. It got to the point where I had to just about carry him onto the bus!
I finally began homeschooling him, and have been every since. He is 18 now, and has been very happy for years now. He gets along well with people general -- especially teens and adults -- but still gets freaked out if we're out somewhere and some little kid starts acting out or crying --- it's like he has PTSD from his experience. I often have to get him as away from the screaming kid as quick as I can.

I don't blame the kids, the teachers or the aides-- but I do strongly resent the administration that tried to cover this up and other things.

July 10 2012 at 12:49 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Yet another example of why tenure is a bad idea. She bullied her aides along with the children, with no fear of job loss. She even got leave WITH pay for abusing her children and going against everything it is to be an educator. Most people hate their jobs, but you should not become an educator if you hate it/can't handle it/have no passion for it.

July 06 2012 at 1:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to taicoleman1's comment

exactly! If you don't like nor can easily relate to children then DO NOT get a job with kids plain and simple!!!!

August 13 2012 at 9:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kris Wingfield

What's with people treating us autists like ****?

People say I over-react and that I "just don't get it," and they're right; I don't understand normal people because they do stupid stuff like this!

I might be autistic, but at least I'm intelligent. People need to get over themselves and accept autism for what it is. Those who have to live with it have; why can't those who have to deal with it for a few hours a day do the same?

June 22 2012 at 7:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Not teach again? How about, CRIMINALLY PROSECUTED and JAILED. This is assault---plain and simple. The fact that these were "vulnerable victims" makes it even more horendous. There is no
ACCEPTABLE excuse for this 'teacher's behavior. Had she done this to anyone else,she would have
already been charged. Society needs to stop making/finding 'reasons' for bad behavior. Hold people accountable for their actions. Provide appropriate punishment. I think we would be much better off.

June 22 2012 at 4:05 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to belkie10's comment

it is child abuse just the same even when you are their teacher so why in hell shouldn't she be prosecuted and put in jail!

August 13 2012 at 9:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My daughter, who is autistic, attends a school in the Lamar Consolidated school district, which is also in Fort Bend county. The two school districts are night and day. The Lamar school district rivals the celebrated, neighboring school district, Katy ISD, in special education. In fact, Katy ISD even had some eyewitness accounts where teacher aides were abusing some kids on field trips. It went unreported because they didn't want to tarnish their reputation. Those aides still work in that school district. As for me, I feel secure that my daughter is getting the best care and education possible because we have close communication with the teachers and special needs counselors. Moreover, our daughter has flourished there, having reached a whole new level of reading and retention like never before. She has made many, many friends, which I never thought was possible. As a whole, there is a 'spirit' of acceptance in the Lamar school district that allows these kids to integrate more easily. I have to credit the special education teachers, aides, and the other teachers for outstanding performance. They truly are unsung 'heroes' and deserve the highest praise.

- From a thankful parent

June 22 2012 at 10:29 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I began my profession in education as a teacher's aide and believe me if ever I would have witnessed an iota of abuse against a child the principle, school nurse and others would be highly aware of the incidents.

June 22 2012 at 8:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to AFRENSHNIGHTMOON's comment

Agreed, and then they described "months of abuse"???? That's crazy. To sit on that for months. I understand that some of the stuff, may make them hesitate to alert, such as the checking if they had pooped. That could cause one to think 'well that's wrong, but should I report it'. However showing them how to hit the kids, hallucinating.... You don't question reporting that IMMEDIATELY.

June 22 2012 at 12:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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