Ohio Special-needs Student Wore Wire to Tape Aide's Caustic Comments

Family wins $300,000 settlement in suit over remarks.

ByABC News
November 10, 2011, 9:49 AM

Nov. 10, 2011 -- The mother of an Ohio teenager with special needs had her daughter wear a wire to secretly record a barrage of disparaging comments from a classroom aide, officials and the family's lawyer said.

On the four days of tapes, made last spring, the aide Kelly Chaffins is heard telling the 14-year-old girl that she is "dumb" and "a liar" and saying, "No wonder you don't have any friends."

"Don't you want to get rid of that belly?...Go for a walk. Do you know how to? You are just lazy and your family is lazy," she castigated the child, according to the complaint in a lawsuit filed by the girl's family.

The classroom teacher, Christie Wilt, a seven-year veteran at Miami Trace Middle School in Washington Courthouse, Ohio, at one point orders the child onto a treadmill kept in the classroom to provide exercise for students, according to Brian Garvine, a lawyer for the family. The child was on the treadmill for 15 minutes and when it broke was told to run in place, he said.

The Miami Trace Local School District paid $300,000 last month to the mother of the girl, whose identity is being shielded at the family's request, to settle a lawsuit over the bullying, according to Miami Trace Superintendent Dan Roberts.

"Our biggest concern is the education and protection of our children. We fell short. We cannot let this happen again," Roberts said. He said the bullying took place in a resource room where students with severe disabilities were schooled.

Chaffins resigned after the tapes came to light, Roberts said, and Wilt, who is now on maternity leave, agreed to take eight hours training about bullying and recognizing child abuse. "As soon as we had proof, we responded," he said.

Garvine said it was "shocking" that Wilt still had a job. "Chaffins is much worse, but Wilt participated," he said. The lawyer for Wilt and Chaffins could not immediately be reached for comment.

Roberts acknowledged that Wilt had said "some inappropriate things" and had used the words "liar" and "fat" when speaking to the child. "In any context we cannot accept that."

The girl who was the target of the comments now attends Miami Trace High School.