LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Clark County School District is expected to pay nearly $10 million after a federal judge approved a proposed settlement Thursday in a case centered around abuse of a student with autism.

The parents of J.J. Wahrer, who is non-verbal, filed a civil lawsuit against the school district in 2019, alleging that school staff at Harmon Elementary School in the southeast valley acted negligently, violated the law, and covered up physical and mental abuse inflicted on the child.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Boulware ordered that the school district should pay a total of $9,950,000. This includes more than $5.5 million for a trust for the child’s needs, more than $260,000 for the child’s parents, nearly $4 million for the Wahrer family’s attorneys’ fees, and more than $180,000 for their attorneys’ costs advanced for the litigation, according to the order.

The Wahrer family’s civil complaint alleged assault, battery, negligence, negligent hiring, training and supervision, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of a vulnerable person/enhanced damages, preliminary injunction relief, and violation of constitutional rights including substantive due process, equal protection, and protections for disabled persons.

In one incident in 2018, a teacher, Melody Carter, struck the six-year-old child with a stick as punishment for taking off his shoes, according to the civil complaint.

A classroom aide told police she saw Carter hit the child about five times for taking his shoes off and only stopped after the last swing broke the stick. The aide said she recalled the teacher saying, “I have more of those.”

“J.J. was observed yelping and crying, and he appeared to feel pain when he was struck by Carter, but J.J. was unable to articulate or verbalize how he felt,” the complaint stated.

Carter was initially charged with felony abuse. That charge was downgraded to disorderly conduct in July 2018. A judge dismissed the more severe charge because Carter completed anger management classes. Pro Tem Judge Holly Stoberski signed off on it, along with the Clark County District Attorney, according to court records. Carter was terminated by the school district in May 2018, the complaint stated.

The complaint also referred to several incidents in 2017, including denying the child of food and water and failing to address the child’s bathroom needs. The child’s parents also noticed unexplained bruising on his body, according to the complaint.

The child has experienced severe and significant behavioral changes since Spring 2017, according to his parents, including difficulty sleeping, tantrums, anxiety, and violent behavior. He had also tried to run out of class and away from school.

The Clark County School Board approved the settlement last November. It is one of the largest settlements in CCSD history.

The 8 News Now Investigators reached out to the school district for a statement about the proposed settlement Friday afternoon.

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