HOUSTON (KTRK) --A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit alleging that teachers made children fight each other at a now defunct North Forest ISD elementary school.
The beatings occurred in 2009. In all, parents of four families sued the district. They claim three teachers at A.G. Hilliard Elementary School forced groups of students to attack other students who the teachers believed needed discipline. According to the suit the teachers sometimes, "would then leave the area so the beatings could occur unsupervised." Court documents indicate the kids were between six and 12 years old.
Brian was just six years old, he says, when a teacher hit him in the eye with a ruler for refusing to beat up another student. He is now 12 years old. "I barely can see out of one eye," Brian said. He says his teacher even warned of greater ramifications if he refused.
"She was gonna kill my parents," he said.
Six years after the beatings and the case is now officially settled. Minus attorney fees, the four victims involved in today's settlement will split $110,000. Another family previously settled for $40,000. An attorney for the former principal and school district says the money is coming from insurance which the school district had in place at the time of the attacks.
"The circumstances of this were very tragic and should not be visited on any child." said U.S District Judge Alfred Bennett.
It's not clear how long the beatings went on at the school. What's more: the victims are all special needs students, and their difficulties only exacerbated by this ordeal.
"This been a very rollercoaster ride ... ever since 2009," said Brian's mother, who asked us to identify her only as Mrs. Corbin.
Each student will get between 15 and 25 thousand dollars, placed in a special needs trust.
"The fact that we were able to get not just any settlement but a fair settlement for this child is really a victory," said Marty Cirkiel, attorney for the student's families.
Hilliard Elementary was part of North Forest ISD, which was shut down by the state in 2013 after years of poor test scores and a history of financial mismanagement. It was absorbed by HISD. Criminal charges were never filed against anyone in this case. That's the one thing that still nags at these families.
"Some day they will be brought to justice! Thy need to be brought to justice," said Mrs. Corbin.
A spokesperson for the Harris County District Attorney's office confirms they did not criminally charge anyone related to these allegations. Charges could be considered now only if new information or evidence were to come forward.
The attorney for the former principal and former school district says this settlement is not any admission of guilt.