ANTIOCH -- The Antioch school district announced Wednesday night it will pay $8 million to the families of eight kindergarten special education students over a teacher child abuse case and the failure of administrators to report abuse suspicions to the proper authorities.
After meeting in closed session, the board announced the settlement, which will come from the district's insurance coverage and not the budget.
"Although the settlement brings an end to the legal process, the Antioch Unified School District is in no way finished with this difficult chapter in our history," the district said. "We must continue to learn from this case and work to ensure that every child entrusted to our schools is educated in a safe environment."
The case surrounds former Mno Grant Elementary School special education teacher Theresa Allen-Caulboy, who has pleaded not guilty in criminal court to abusing six students, some nonverbal autistic students.
Allen-Caulboy resigned from her teaching post in February, a month after parents reported her to police and the district placed her on leave. She is on electronic home arrest on $200,000 bail.
Parents of victims sued the district and five current and former district employees in April in federal court, claiming Allen-Caulboy slapped, pinched and verbally abused her students.
The plaintiffs allege the district administrators received earlier reports of Allen-Caulboy's abuse yet failed to report those to police or Child Protective Services as required by all "mandated reporters," school employees and others who work directly with children.
The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office has declined to file criminal charges against the administrators, an Antioch police official said Wednesday.
School board president Joy Motts read a statement to the public Wednesday night, choking up as she read.
"Since the time these incidents came to light, we have overhauled our policy on reporting suspected abuse and retrained every employee in our district on the responsibility each of us has in protecting our students," the district's statement read. "When our district learned that a settlement had been reached, we acted to expedite its formal approval for the families involved. It is our hope that this settlement helps the children and families involved continue to heal."
Peter Alfert, the attorney representing the victims, said the amount of the settlement recognizes what the children went through.
"This is a repeated problem with school districts that do not report when schoolteachers are abusing children," he said. "It aggravates the situation tremendously."
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.