Families win $5M in settlement over classroom abuse suit

August 18, 2022 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The families of four nonverbal special education students have received $5 million in settlement money after they sued the county school system based in West Virginia’s state capitol, alleging abuse in the classroom.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail obtained details of the settlement involving Horace Mann Middle School through an open records request to the Board of Risk and Insurance Management. The agency insures the Kanawha County school system.

The families of the four children last year sued the school district and three employees: teacher Anthony Wilson and teacher’s aides Walter Pannell and Lillian Branham. They accused the educators of physically and verbally abusing the children. The Gazette reports that the employees allegedly refused to take the children to the bathroom for long periods of time and spanked, pushed and slapped them, among other allegations.

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Cases against Branham and Wilson are still pending in Kanawha County Magistrate Court. In July, Pannell was sentenced to at least six months in jail after he pleaded guilty to four counts of misdemeanor battery.

Earlier this year, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill that requires public school administrators to review at least 15 minutes of footage from each special education classroom every 90 days.