LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Las Vegas mother is suing the Clark County School District over allegations a teacher kicked her daughter as part of a so-called “kicking game,” court documents said.
“I knew something was wrong because she was acting different than her norm,” Jessica Hernandez said. Hernandez’s daughter is on the autism spectrum and has difficulty forming phrases. The 8 News Now I-Team is not naming the child.
Up until October 2021, Hernandez’s daughter was a student at Joseph Neal STEAM Academy, an elementary school near Tropical Parkway and Jones Boulevard in the northwest valley. But something happened that led Hernandez to pull her daughter from class.
In the lawsuit, Hernandez claims her daughter, who was 7 years old at the time, was on the receiving end of “physical force,” “verbal abuse” and “humiliation.”
“It hurt her feelings and it hurt her body,” Hernandez said.
The lawsuit refers to one incident involving, “playing a ‘game’ where the teacher kicks the student on the butt and/or legs.” Hernandez alleges one teacher played the so-called “game” with another student in class and then played it with her daughter.
The I-Team filed a public records request with CCSD for any email regarding the alleged “game.” In one email, a teacher responded to an administrator saying, “there was no kicking involved” and “the game involved the teacher lightly bumping/tapping the toe of her shoe against a student’s heel/ankle.”
“The teacher picked her foot up and nudged the boy in a kicking manner,” Hernandez said. “My daughter took it to be kicking. She stated it was kicking.”
The lawsuit claims the alleged kicking “constituted a battery.” Because of that, Hernandez said CCSD should have not only informed her but also should have filed the appropriate paperwork. No employee filed out the 624 form required for “aversive intervention,” the lawsuit said.
Court documents reveal CCSD police did not open an investigation and there were no cameras recording in the classroom. The I-Team’s records request also found while there were cameras recording in parts of the school building, the footage was overwritten by the time it was requested.
“If they won’t report down and they don’t record it down and make sure someone else is aware then I need to,” Hernandez said.
School leaders and the teachers involved met with Hernandez several days later.
“With regards to the ‘kicking game,’ it was decided that this would not be played anymore in class, and it hasn’t been,” one teacher wrote in a document obtained by the I-Team.
“The teacher explained to me that she did in fact kick my child, but that it was part of a game,” Hernandez said about the meeting.
Internal documents the I-Team obtained indicate the teachers vehemently deny the claims, saying, “the accusations… are completely false.”
“This is really just about a large uncontrollable school district,” Hernandez’s attorney, Neal Hyman, said. “The mother needs to be notified. It needs to go up the chain of command.”
“Could this just be a case of a misunderstanding of, we were playing a game?” the I-Team’s David Charns asked Hernandez and Hyman.
“No,” Hernandez said. She is now homeschooling her daughter.
“I struggle with letting her out of my sight now,” she said.
Hernandez said her daughter enjoyed her school and had made a progress, but then regressed in the months before Hernandez eventually removed her.
“I feel like we’ve been further cut off from the outside world,” Hernandez said.
The I-Team asked the district for comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesperson said CCSD does not comment on pending litigation. District lawyers however deny the allegations in court documents. One teacher wrote in the documents the I-Team obtained that the allegations were “offensive.”
A filing in the case from last week indicates Hernandez and the district are settling out of court, though the terms of that agreement were not available Monday.