- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii has agreed to settle three lawsuits from parents who said their special-needs children were abused by workers at an elementary school.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday (https://bit.ly/1ja1Jug) that the federal lawsuit alleged that the 7- and 8-year-old girls were disciplined forcefully, force-fed and physically restrained while at Kipapa Elementary School.

Lawyers on both sides declined comment to the newspaper. The parties told the court that a settlement was reached.

The lawsuits say the girls were denied proper special education services. They accused the school’s principal of failing to intervene. The lawsuits also named a special education teacher and an educational aide, along with Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

The department did not respond to a message from the newspaper seeking comment.

The complaints detailed graphic allegations against the girls during the 2010-11 school year. The lawsuits say the girls suffered from developmental disorders, including limited speech skills.

One 8-year-old girl was forced to vomit into her shirt so school staff wouldn’t have to clean it up, according to one of the lawsuits.

“Her body was forcibly held down on a table and was held there while defendants force fed her and held her mouth closed so she could not vomit,” the lawsuit said.

Another girl was disciplined by being held down onto a table by her neck for about 5 minutes, another lawsuit said.

The lawsuits say the girls were placed in private schools after parents learned of the abuse, at the Department of Education’s expense, according to the lawsuits.

The parents’ attorney, Eric Seitz, said the agreement needs to be approved by lawmakers.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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