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Michele Smith acts out what her son told her about being choked when questioned about goings-on at his school from her home in Antioch on April 5, 2013. Smith's son, Mateo Maldonado, 6, was allegedly abused at the hands of his special education teacher.

ANTIOCH -- Two weeks after her autistic son came home with bruises on his neck and face, allegedly at the hands of his teacher, a frustrated Michele Smith complained to Antioch's top two special education administrators.

She says she received a stunning response: They asked her not to call police.

"They just wanted to sweep it under the carpet," Smith said in an interview.

That Dec. 10 conference call is one of the most incendiary revelations in an abuse scandal that has entangled the Antioch Unified School District since the filing of a federal lawsuit last week. Along with the suit filed by three families, lawyers released an email from Antioch special education director David Wax in which he tells colleagues he "de-escalated" Smith during the call, convincing her not to report the allegations against Mno Grant Elementary teacher Theresa Allen-Caulboy to police or the media.

This week, Smith described her end of the conversation to this newspaper.

"They said, 'We can handle it, you don't have to go make police reports,'" Smith said. "I don't trust them at all. They failed my child."

Administrators launched an internal investigation, as they told Smith they would, but did not report the suspicions of abuse to police or Child Protective Services as the law requires. But they failed to contain the scandal: Smith ignored Wax's request and went to police the same day.

Now the Antioch mother plans to join the other parents of autistic Grant students who are suing the Antioch school district, Allen-Caulboy and three administrators in federal court, claiming their children's civil rights were violated when the teacher slapped, pinched and verbally abused them this school year.

The abuse claims, similar to those in other recent Bay Area special education abuse cases, have forced the accused teacher's resignation and prompted a criminal investigation. Grant Elementary Principal Michael Green has been on leave since March 22, according to a letter sent to parents, and at least two teacher's aides have not worked at the school site in weeks, parents said.

The school district has remained mostly mum, citing personnel confidentiality rules, but Superintendent Donald Gill released a statement:

"Please know that our district is fully cooperating with the Antioch Police Department as they continue to investigate these allegations," Gill wrote on the district website. "While I cannot comment about specific details regarding the allegations contained in the lawsuit, I will be personally heartbroken, horrified and angry if these allegations are substantiated."

News of the lawsuit has brought forward other accusations against Allen-Caulboy. Antioch resident Lucinda Jackson, 52, said in an interview that she initially disbelieved her autistic grandson, Sabion Green, when he said his teacher had pushed him to the ground to make him sit down.

"I blew him off," she said. But when she read a story in this newspaper, "I put it all together."

She reported her allegations to police Tuesday.

The District Attorney's Office is still reviewing the criminal case.

Smith's 6-year-old son, Mateo, has epilepsy, bipolar disorder, sensory processing disorder and ADHD in addition to his autism. Still, Mateo is verbal and functions at a high level.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Smith said, Mateo came home from school with bruises on his neck and face but would not divulge how they happened.

"I knew it was slap marks and choke marks because the fingerprints were visible on his neck," Smith said.

In the middle of the night, Mateo woke his mother.

"'Mrs. Caulboy's been hitting me,'" Smith said her son told her. "'Mommy, can I have a helmet to go to school, because it hurts when she hits me.'"

Smith complained several times to school officials, she said, but got no response until her Dec. 10 call to Wax and special education coordinator Kai Montgomery.

"The principal and others were not following the law in respect to reporting suspicions of child abuse," said her attorney, Peter Alfert.

Contact investigative reporter Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.