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Settlement reached in Floyd Elementary abuse case

An $800,000 tentative settlement with the plaintiffs in the Floyd Elementary School abuse case back in 2010 was approved by the Nye County School District Board of Trustees on Jan. 13.

The plaintiffs are the parents of children who filed a federal lawsuit claiming their children were physically abused at the hands of some faculty members at the school. The school district was named as a co-defendant as well.

The lawsuit was seeking $12.15 million for pain and suffering, and $10 million in punitive damages for the plaintiffs.

In a statement issued by the school district on Friday, Superintendent Dale Norton said the proposed settlement is conditioned upon the United States District Court of Nevada’s approval of the settlements.

“The proposed settlement is in the amount of $800,000 which the district believes would be divided equally among the three plaintiffs in the lawsuits,” he said. “Of these funds, however, the district believes that approximately $550,000 will be retained by the plaintiffs’ counsel as attorney fees and litigation.”

Norton went on to say the remaining funds must be placed into a blocked trust account as part of the settlement.

“They (the funds), may only be accessed by the plaintiffs upon approval of the court,” he said. “There is no estimation as to when this matter will be ruled upon by the court.”

Principal Holly Lepisto and teacher Sarah Hopkins were taken into custody during school hours along with classroom aides Phyllis DuShane and Kathryn Cummings in November 2010.

According to court documents, at least three of the defendants were accused of administering physical punishment on several special needs students, which included “flicking” the students in the mouth and “bopping them in the face.” Additionally, defendants Hopkins, Dushane and Cummings were accused of using their hands to push and shove or forcibly make the children sit back in their seats.

Court documents claimed that Principal Lepisto covered up, ratified and allowed the abuse to continue until she was arrested by police.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs also maintain the school district had an inadequate training program, while the district’s policies were deliberately indifferent to the rights of the students and caused them to be repeatedly abused.

All four women were originally arrested on charges ranging from five counts of child abuse/neglect and one count of conspiracy to commit a crime before the case began to unravel

Lepisto saw the case against her dismissed in August 2012. She now works for the district as principal at Tonopah’s middle and elementary schools.

Hopkins pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor counts of coercion in District Court, and returned to work within the district in late 2013.

Cummings saw the case against her dropped in 2011. DuShane pleaded guilty to a simple misdemeanor battery charge in December 2010; she was given 150 hours of community service.

The case against the four educators became public in October 2010, when former teacher’s aide Tammy Schoeck filed an incident report with the Nye County Sheriff’s Office after supposedly witnessing several alleged incidents of abuse between Hopkins and two of her students.

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