Physical abuse suits against Tennessee teacher dismissed

Associated Press • Oct 9, 2012 at 2:10 AM

GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday dismissed lawsuits from parents that claimed a Sumner County teacher's treatment of five special needs students amounted to child abuse, saying the filings in the case were deficient and late.The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said the case had to be dismissed because the filings were so inadequate the judges couldn't thoroughly review a lower court decision."Though dismissal is a sanction of last resort, the repeated missed deadlines and briefing deficiencies support it here," the ruling said.The parents — Allen Sagan, Charlie Jackson, Jerry Jackson, Jeff Long and Terry Minnis — sued teacher Donna Weidenbenner and the Sumner County School System over incidents from 2009. The initial suits accused Weidenbenner of abuse ranging from improper restraint to "force feeding the children to the point of vomiting."Before the case went to trial, a federal judge in Nashville dismissed the claims that Weidenbenner had used excessive force against her students and the school system failed to train or supervise the teacher, saying the evidence of abuse was "quite scant."The appellate court ruling left open the possibility that the parents could be ordered to pay the legal bills of the Sumner County school system because some claims in the lawsuit were unfounded."While we appreciate the unique difficulties confronted by these parents, they do not excuse the filing and prosecution of patently frivolous claims," the appeals court said.The court directed a federal court in Nashville to re-examine the fees issue.Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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