SEATTLE - Brianna Horton fights back tears, re-living the 7 months she spent at the Northwest School of Innovative Learning in Tacoma.
I don't know anyone who wouldn't struggle if they're being shoved against the ground, she said.
Brianna was a vivacious, busy little girl, always curious, says her mom. But when she was just 2, Kerry Horton knew something wasn't quite right. Brianna was eventually diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, a mild form of autism.
She's kind of socially impaired, she has some sensory issues, said Kerry. She's very prone to anxiety, it makes her really nervous to be in really busy environments.
When a mainstream setting didn't work, the Puyallup School District recommended she go to the Northwest School. And, her mother says, into a punishing environment.
She would come home almost daily and would be so upset and so frustrated and she would cry, said Kerry.
Tokeep you still they keep twisting your limbs, said Brianna.
Brianna's treatment at Northwest School is now the subject of a lawsuit against the school, Fairfax Hospital, which oversees it, and the Puyallup School District.
Court documents lay out what the Hortons call a pattern of abuse and ignorance in dealing with a child with Aspergers. Citing six separate incidents culminating in May 2008, when Brianna says four staff members held her down on the floor for at least 27 minutes until they deemed her to be calm....during which time she repeatedly stated she thought they were trying to break her limbs.
And, Kerry Horton says, they did. Brianna suffered a broken ankle.
If she was at our home, we wouldn't hold her down and break her leg. That absolutely is not the right answer, she said.
The suit is being filed on behalf of the family by Nelson Lee of Lee and Lee law firm in Seattle.
Believing NWSOIL (Northwest School) to be a nurturing and safe environment staffed by appropriately trained and supervised personnel, Kerry entrusted her precious thirteen-year-old daughter to their care. NWSOIL, Fairfax Hospital (NWSOIL's administrator and operator) and the Puyallup School District failed both Kerry and Brianna miserably, said Lee.
Brianna is now thriving at another school where she has never been restrained and where there is no policy of restraint.
The Hortons say there is nothing about restraining students in NWSOIL's Aversive Behavior Plan.
The School and Fairfax Hospital had no comment due to pending litigation.
The Hortons are seeking $600,000 from the Puyallup School District in an administrative claim. The district has 60 days to respond.