- Andrew Marra Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A Palm Beach Gardens elementary school teacher forced a 9-year-old autistic boy to stand in front of his class twice last year while classmates voted on whether the boy was “annoying,” a federal lawsuit alleges.
When the boy began crying and turned away to hide his tears, the Marsh Pointe Elementary teacher physically forced him to face the class, compounding his humiliation, the suit claims.
In both incidents, which each occurred in October 2016, the fourth-grade teacher’s conduct was “outrageous on its face and caused the minor child to suffer from severe emotional distress,” the suit says.
“By subjecting a 9-year old child to a public vote in which the remaining children in the classroom were instructed to raise their hands if they found him annoying, (the teacher) acted in a deliberate or reckless fashion to inflict emotional suffering upon the minor child,” the suit said.
The suit, filed against the Palm Beach County School District by the boy’s mother, claims that the teacher, Julie Salvatoriello, violated federal bans on discrimination against the disabled and had a track record of complaints from parents about her previous treatment of children.
The county school district was negligent, the suit says, for allowing her to “be in a position to cause severe emotional harm to (the boy) by intentionally humiliating him in front of the other children in his class.”
School district officials declined to comment on the case. Salvatoriello did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Records show that Salvatoriello has been a school district employee since 2000. A school district spokeswoman declined to say whether the district had investigated Salvatoriello’s alleged actions or was aware of previous complaints against her from parents.
At the time of the incidents, the boy was known to have a speech impairment, and his individual education plan acknowledged that he “needed assistance focusing in the classroom and following classroom rules,” the suit says.
While he had not yet been formally diagnosed with autism, the suit argues that “it was clear from the symptoms exhibited to his teachers” that he was likely on the autism spectrum.
As a result of his teacher’s actions, the boy has suffered anxiety and stress, the suit claims.
Marsh Pointe Elementary is located off Hood Road in Palm Beach Gardens near the Mirasol community.