North Platte settles bullying lawsuit

The North Platte School District has settled a suit brought by a family claiming their child was bullied at school by an adult employee.

The case was filed in 2018 and alleged 11 counts against the district and individuals, including superintendent Karl Matt, former elementary principal Cathy Hubble and special education paraprofessional Christine Roper.

Matt said the terms of the settlement ­— which was reached last month — were sealed by the judge and federal confidentiality laws prohibit any comment on the case. In total, the district paid $52,500 in plaintiff legal fees and for the creation of a trust fund for the child.

Neither Roper nor Hubble work at the North Platte School District anymore.

The 53-page petition filed last year laid out an alleged pattern of abuse beginning when the child — who has Down syndrome — entered kindergarten in 2016.

The district and the victim’s mother met to construct an individualized education plan (IEP). Hubble assigned Roper to work with the girl for most of the school day, accompanying her on trips between her general education classroom and the special education room.

The lawsuit said family members began noticing a change in the girl's behavior including yelling at her dolls to ‘sit down and stay there until the work is done,’ ‘shut up’ and that she ‘hated them.’

In the fall of 2016 the girl didn't want to attend school and Roper contacted the girl’s mother to voice her frustration with the girl. According to the lawsuit the girl’s mother met several times with Matt, Hubble and the girl’s regular and special education teachers to remedy the situation.

The girl’s mother then began making requests that the girl be given a different paraprofessional, which were declined

By early 2017, the girl’s mother put an audio recording device on her child to see what went on during the day. Through the audio recordings the girl’s mother discovered Roper would take the girl into an unused classroom for minor issues, such as coloring outside the lines or not listening. The recordings also caught Roper allegedly threatening the girl to be forced to sit on a ‘rest mat’ as a punishment for not following directions, not understanding what she was asked to do or otherwise not performing school tasks as desired.

The suit alleged that while in the empty classroom the girl was subjected to mental, emotional and physical abuse by Roper and that she treated the girl unfairly based on her disability, disciplining, berating, belittling, humiliating and punishing the girl for her failures or inability to comply with demands due to her cognitive and developmental delays.

In the recordings, Roper reportedly told the child, ‘We can stay in here all day because I get paid the same either way.’

The girl also suffered frequent bruising, which may have been the result of rough treatment. A witness said Roper had sometimes dragged the girl from a classroom tent by her legs and would forcefully grab her arm.