Berwyn family files lawsuit accusing school of neglecting, abusing son with autism

BERWYN, Ill. (WLS) -- A Berwyn family is suing a suburban school district and their child's school, demanding answers about alleged incidents involving their 8-year-old son who has autism.

Lucia Roden said she is concerned for her son's safety. She's speaking out about years of alleged abuse and neglect that she says her 8-year-old son with autism has endured at Prairie Oak Elementary School.

"I'm at the point where I do not even want to send him to school anymore," Roden said. "This is a roller coaster. I gain their trust then something happens again."

The Roden family filed a lawsuit against Berwyn North School District 98 after they say Gianni Fata-Roden came home covered with permanent marker. The black markings were scribbled all over the child's back.

"I am disgusted," Roden said. "When he came into the bathroom and started undressing, I noticed a black mark on his back and I said, 'What is this?'"

Gianni has limited verbal skills. He is not able to tell his mom what happened.

"I turned and I looked at him and he had a huge meltdown," Roden said.

This is not the first incident on record at Prairie Oak. Back in 2015, Lucia Roden filed a police report with the Berwyn Police Department after she said a teachers aid tied her son to a chair with an exercise band.

"They tied it around him so he could learn to sit down in a chair properly," Roden said. "Keep him confined so he was not running around."

Roden called the school about the improper and dangerous restraint.

"After talking to different people and different therapists, this is something they would never use on an autistic child," Roden said.

Last year, the family says the school "lost" Gianni. A teacher called to alert them, then later found the child on another floor of the building. The family's attorney said the pattern is disturbing.

"I do not believe the staff has the proper qualifications to be taking care of a child like Gianni," said attorney John Chwarzynski, of Hale & Monico, LLC.

READ: Full statement from Berwyn North District 98

ABC7 reached out to District 98 and the superintendent said she did not know where the markings came from. The district issued a statement saying, in part: "Thus far, our video footage from the school bus and from the hallway cameras has not revealed anything that would cause us to take remedial action concerning any of our employees."

"With the autism we want to make sure he is safe and that he does not get hurt," said Steven Roden, Gianni's father.

The school district did not comment on the police report that was filed after the child was reportedly improperly restrained with an exercise band. Right now, the family focused on Gianni's safety and looking to change districts.
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