Annie Cosby Jan. 29, 2015, 8:07am


The mother of a special needs student is suing over claims her son was abused at school.

Debra McFarland, and on behalf of minor child J.M., filed a lawsuit Oct. 23, 2014, in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas against Smith Middle School-CyFair ISD, Susan Higgins, Tiffany Patterson, Javier X et al, citing civil assault.

According to the complaint, in November 2012, Rebecca Spurlock, an employee of Smith Middle School, notified parents, including the plaintiff, of special needs children who were students at the school that a systemic pattern of abuse was occurring and reported witnessing defendant Patterson physically and verbally abusing students. The complaint states Spurlock contacted parents as a whistleblower and disclosed that she reported the abuse to the principal, Higgins, who had terminated her and conspired to cover up the allegations. McFarland says she was told by Spurlock that her son J.M. had been abused, was physically kicked numerous times until his heels bled and was taken to the school nurse who bandaged his injuries, which were presented to McFarland as natural injuries from disability behavioral issues.

The lawsuit states a para professional known only as Javier X attempted to restrain J.M. for purported behavioral issues and caused multiple abrasions and contusion to his right eye, which was not reported to McFarland as required. According to the lawsuit, J.M. told his mother that “he hurt” and McFarland found distressing bruises on him, so she immediately took him to urgent care, where the nurse conducted a criminal inquiry about child abuse.

McFarland says she has since suffered debilitating anxiety attacks for which she seeks professional help. The complaint states Higgins personally told her that Spurlock was a disgruntled employee and there was not any validity in her statements concerning abuse. McFarland says the failure of the administration to disclose the abuse and the purposeful deception augmented the immediate emotional and mental demise of J.M., who required treatment by several doctors and was admitted to a facility for extreme behavioral issues after the injuring restraint by Javier X. The defendants are accused of violating the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, negligence and civil assault.

McFarland seeks actual, consequential and punitive damages, medical expenses, interest and costs of court. She is represented by attorney Joseph K. Plumbar of Humble.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number: 4:14-CV-3033.

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