Weslaco student treated like 'animal', attorney says

A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Weslaco Independent School District alleging civil rights violations against a now 12-year-old girl.

The student, whose first name is Hannah, is no longer in the district, but the history of alleged physical and emotional abuses against her while there date back to 2007.

The most recent accusations stem from Cleckler-Heald Elementary.

A security guard and special needs teacher from the school are named in the suit.

Attorney Michael Pruneda claims both defendants used excessive force in separate incidents to unlawfully subdue his client.

Police photos show bruises on Hannah's arms which reportedly resulted from the assaults.

"Obviously their training is insufficient, unsatisfactory... They should have researched her disabilities further to be able to handle these outbursts," he said.

Hannah suffers from what's called 'impulse disorder.'

Her attorney says it causes anger outbursts and irritability.

They're mental health challenges that school district employees allegedly failed to properly handle, according to Pruneda.

He claimed she was instead treated like an "animal."

The alleged mistreatment dates back to 2007, when Hannah was a first grader at Silva Elementary.

"Hannah on one occasion was locked in a storage closet for outbursts that were related to her disability," Pruneda said.

The school district vehemently denies the allegations across the board, and plans to fight them in court.

Superintendent Dr. Ruben Alejandro says district staff receive extensive training on how to properly handle students.

He adds how no arrests have resulted from either police report filed for the alleged assault.

And with regards to the bruising?

"Sometimes that does happen when the restrain is taking place in order to keep them from hurting themselves or hurting others," the superintendent said.

Hannah is no longer in the Weslaco ISD because of her family's choice to switch districts.

Her attorney hopes the lawsuit will protect all students with special needs.

The district says it remains committed to the safety and well being of all its students.

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