Eagleton School civil suit outlines beatings, broken bones, depravity
GREAT BARRINGTON — One student claims his arm was broken, and then it was treated — not with a cast — but by wrapping it in bandages and belts.
Another claims students were coerced into witnessing and engaging in sexual acts.
One was allegedly mocked and another videotaped, both while showering.
Those are some of the allegations leveled against the now-closed Eagleton School and members of its staff in a civil suit filed this week in Berkshire Superior Court.
The suit, filed on behalf of eight students and their guardians, claims staff members of the former school for boys and young men with developmental disabilities routinely abused and neglected students, denied them proper medical attention, did not adequately investigate or report instances of abuse, and denied guardians access to their students if they complained or raised concerns.
The suit, filed by Boston attorney Daniel T.S. Heffernan, claims the defendants "engaged in a significant pattern of physical and emotional abuse of students since at least June 2013" up until the school's closure in April 2016.
The suit names the school and its former officials — Executive Director Bruce Bona, Program Director James Yeaman, interim Residential Program Director Michael Adams, Program Quality Insurance Manager Lawrence Murray, Quality of Life Supervisor Crystal Spradley, Administrator John Goodnow, staff members Michelle Klein, Justin Senecal and Damian Sinclair, and Clinical Director Maureen Pryjma — as defendants in the case.
Attempts to reach legal counsel representing the school for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Eight former students who attended the school on various dates between September 2011 and March 2016 and their guardians are listed as plaintiffs.
The students' current ages range between 14 and 22. When the school was operational, the age of its student body ranged from 9 to 22-years-old.
Documents obtained by The Eagle identify the involved students by initials or first name only.
A student identified as K.M., now 17, began attending the school in February 2013. His mother noticed bruising on his arms, legs, nose and face, including black eyes. He told his mother he wasn't allowed to talk about his injuries, according to the suit. Eagleton told her the injuries were self-inflicted.
K.M.'s arm was broken in March 2013 when three staff members attempted to restrain him after he slapped one of them. He was denied medical treatment for one week while staff treated the break by wrapping his arm in bandages and belts.
His mother was told surveillance cameras in the building were broken and there was no video recording of the incident.
K.M.'s mother never received a report from the school and was allegedly threatened with involvement from the Department of Children and Families if she complained.
Eagleton staff are also accused of neglecting to provide K.M. with needed assistance to use the bathroom.
That alleged neglect led to K.M. being forced to walk around with fecal matter stuck to his body, leading to pain and infections and an inability to sit.
His hygiene was further impacted following an incident in which a female staff member allegedly mocked his genitals while he showered, causing him to avoid the practice.
Staff allegedly told him he was unwanted at home and would be placed into foster care and that his favorite teacher had been murdered in the basement of the school.
A student identified as D.C., now 17, who began attending the school in June 2013 said he was thrown into the ceiling and slammed down on a bed before being struck in the head with a clock radio in February 2016. He alleges his food was tampered with by staff — though the suit does not specify how — and that students were coerced into inappropriate sexual activity.
As a result, D.C. began harming himself, including scratching himself to the point of bleeding and attempting to hang himself with a cord, according to the suit.
Another student, identified as Rama, now 22, attended the school between March 2014 and March 2016 was allegedly video recorded while taking a shower and was left unattended by staff.
When his mother saw a different student being put into a restraint by four staff members during a visit, she reported her concerns to the school.
She was then prohibited from walking the campus during future visits.
She also received no information or only vague information from the school when she inquired about Rama's injuries including scrapes, bruises, rug burns, scars and bite marks.
Rama's alleged abuses led to uncontrollable shaking, weight loss and hiding under his bed.
A student identified as E.C., now 14, claims staff members jumped on his back while applying a restraint in November 2015 and slammed his head on the ground, leaving a bloody nose. E.C.'s mother was not informed of her son's injuries and when she called the school was told he was in the shower when her calls were answered at all.
Seeks jury trial
The suit alleges negligence, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium is a claim for damages on behalf of a family member of a person affected by negligence on another's part.
The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.
The school came under scrutiny amid ongoing allegations of abuse, leading to the execution of search warrants and a raid of the campus in January 2016.
The ensuing investigation and Eagleton's inability to comply with sanctions imposed by the state Department of Early Education and care, led to that body pulling Eagleton's license, closing the school in April.
That investigation has led to at least 17 criminal indictments against former staff members on charges ranging from assault and battery with a dangerous weapon to caretaker abuse and witness intimidation.
Pretrial hearings in those cases are expected in late September.
Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.
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