Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Florida special education teacher acquitted of abuse charges

Sarasota, Florida - According to MSNBC, a jury has acquitted special education teacher Diana O'Neill of child abuse charges after hearing testimony from classroom aides and other school employees that she had hit, kicked and ridiculed four students with severe developmental disabilities.

The verdict followed a weeklong trial during which prosecutors attempted to prove that O'Neill's actions could have caused physical injury or mental harm to her students.

That standard was made more difficult to prove than in some other cases because all of the students involved are so severely disabled that they cannot speak.

They also have so many physical problems that there is no way to know whether she would have seriously injured them when aides say they saw her hit them on the head with objects, kick and push them.

Although prosecutors argued some of the children received bumps on the head, ruises and scratches in O'Neill's classroom, the defense said that those do not qualify as injuries.

Now the criminal charges against Ms O'Neill have been resolved, the local school district must now consider whether to give her her job back and the state may revoke her license. Additionally, the parents of the children say they intend to file a law suit against the school district.

The full details are here.