Wednesday, February 25, 2009

MO:Mapaville parents to file complaint against school nurse

Lawsuit filed in federal court
By Chris CampbellTuesday, February 24, 2009 3:14 AM CST

A group of parents involved in a federal lawsuit alleging abuse of special needs students at Mapaville State School plan to file an additional complaint against a school nurse.

Craig Henning, an advocate for the disabled with the Crystal City-based Disability Resource Association (DRA), said multiple parents will file complaints with the Missouri State Nursing Board against Sally Forshee, a school nurse employed by the Mapaville State School.

The school has been at the center of controversy for almost one year, after secretly recorded audiotapes revealed what Henning and many parents believe is abuse and neglect.

Most of the children educated at the Mapaville State School are profoundly disabled, and many cannot communicate clearly.

Mapaville is one of more than 30 such schools across the state.

A lawsuit recently filed in federal court by Scott and the parents of eight other students is asking the court to fire implicated staffers, install classroom cameras and eventually dismantle the entire state school system.

After becoming concerned with the quality of care their children were receiving, several parents placed recording devices in their children's backpacks.

After listening to the tapes, some of the parents expressed shock over their content.

"I was in disbelief, just disbelief," said Sheila Scott, whose son, Chandler Scott, was featured prominently on the tape. "I couldn't believe these people who loved and cared for my son would treat him this way."

More than 40 hours of tape was eventually turned over the the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office for investigation.

While no criminal charges were issued, the tapes became evidence in a series of due process hearings for parents who filed abuse complaints against the district.

The incident that Scott found most troubling was the repeated ringing of a bell near her 12-year-old son's face by Forshee.

After saying "watch me send him into a seizure," Forshee rang the bell an estimated 30 times.

Scott said other school staffers present laughed.

When called to give evidence before a panel hearing, Forshee admitted she knew such behavior could trigger seizures.

Chandler Scott suffers from epilepsy.

Jill Randall, whose son Blake is a classmate of Chandler Scott, is outraged that district officials have not fired staff members facing abuse allegations.

"We are all making complaints," she said.

When reached by phone, Forshee declined to comment, referring questions to Charlie Taylor, superintendent of state schools.

When asked why Forshee remained employed, Taylor declined to answer, citing ongoing litigation and personnel issues.

Henning said he believes the reason for the state's unwillingness to act is obvious - liability.

"They don't want to admit wrongdoing," he said.

Scott, a former aide at Mapaville who said her suspicions were initially aroused when she picked up her son and found him covered in dried urine, said she is unwilling [to] return her child to school barring drastic changes.

"Our trust is shattered," she said.

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