$2.5M settlement reached by Longview ISD, families of students allegedly abused by former Everhart educators

‘Nobody lived in a day where it was appropriate to beat disabled children,’ an attorney for the families said.
Top row: Cecilia Gregg, Paula Dixon, Cassandra James. Bottom row: Priscilla Johnson, Linda...
Top row: Cecilia Gregg, Paula Dixon, Cassandra James. Bottom row: Priscilla Johnson, Linda Lister, Cynthia Talley were accused of abusing students at J.L. Everhart Elementary. They are no longer employed by the district.(Gregg County Jail)
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 7:44 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 11:17 PM CDT
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LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - Half a dozen former educators at J.L. Everhart Elementary School in Longview were accused of abusing 10 children in their care, and the school district has reached a financial settlement with the families of those students.

The educators accused in the case are Cynthia Denise Talley, 55, of Longview, charged with seven counts of injury to a child and unlawful restraint of a child; Paula Hawkins Dixon, 58, of Longview, charged with three counts of injury to a child. Cassandra Renee James, 48, of Hallsville, and Linda Kaye Brown Lister, 60, of Longview, were charged with endangering a child. Cecilia Gregg, 57, of Longview, was charged with eight counts of injury to a child. Priscilla Rosa Johnson, 56, of Longview, was charged with one count of injury to a child.

On Monday night, Longview ISD board members voted to approve a settlement with the parents of the students that those teachers are alleged to have abused. Each child involved will receive an equal share of a $2.5 million settlement.

Following the approval, one of the attorneys for the families, Shane McGuire, said, “There is no ‘back in my day’ excuse for what happened to these kids. Nobody lived in a day where it was appropriate to beat disabled children. Nobody lived in a day where it was appropriate to put disabled kids in the closet, hit them with a yard stick, sit on them, make them stand for 45 minutes at a time for some kind of weird punishment.”

The attorneys for the families also released the following information on Monday night:

Today, the Longview ISD (LISD) school board voted to award $2.5 million to 10 special needs students who were abused and discriminated against from at least August 2019 through October 2021. The students, many of whom are diagnosed as autistic nonverbal, attended J.L. Everhart Elementary, an LISD school overseen as a charter school by East Texas Advanced Academies (ETAA).

” These kids are among the most vulnerable in our society. Their parents trusted their teachers and school administrators to instruct and care for their children, not do things like lock them in supply closets for hours or tape masks to their faces,” attorney Shane McGuire said. “This settlement will help provide some financial stability for these children but can never undo the harm that has been done to them nor the peace of mind that has been stolen from their parents,” Geoff Hoover added.

The abuse of the children was not limited to a single teacher. Evidence, including some video recordings, show that multiple teachers, the school’s principal, and an assistant principal abused the children. Types of abuse that were inflicted upon these children include:

  • Taping a mask to a non-verbal, autistic child’s face, then taping his hands together so he could not use them to attempt to remove it.
  • Striking children repeatedly on their heads, ears, torsos, legs, arms, and hands.
  • Repeatedly placing children in a supply closet.
  • Intentionally pulling a chair out from under a child so he would fall to the floor.
  • Putting a child in a headlock and pulling him out of the bathroom.

“As the parent of a special needs child, there are very few places I feel safe leaving my son - somewhere I think he will be taken care of and have his needs met,” Tabatha Samis, the mother of one of the victims, said. “I thought school was one of those places. I thought I could trust the teachers and other adults at the school to care for him, but now I know that wasn’t true. My son was repeatedly hit with a yard stick on several occasions on various parts of his body, actually sat on by a teacher, and forced to stand for long amounts of time as ‘punishment.’ This was done to him by his teachers - grown adults he should love, not fear. This will make it very difficult for me to ever trust another caretaker again,” she concluded.

The settlement awarded to the children, $250,000 each less expenses and fees, will be put into trusts so that the money can be used for their benefit. There is reason to believe that the abuse was not limited to these 10 students. If there are other special needs children who suffered abuse or discrimination at J.L. Everhart Elementary, they are encouraged to contact Shane McGuire at the McGuire Firm or Geoff Hoover at Sorey & Hoover.

Longview ISD has not yet released a statement about the settlement.

RELATED:

+ Longview ISD says employees accused of student abuse no longer with district

+ Fifth former Longview ISD employee arrested in connection with mistreatment of child

+ Indictment alleges Longview ISD employee hit children with ruler, shoe

+ Longview ISD to install cameras in special needs classrooms