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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lawyer: Massachusetts Special Needs School Reported Abuse of Students

From CNN

By Sarah Jorgensen
February 4, 2016

A criminal investigation resulting in the arrests of five employees of a Massachusetts private school came after school officials reported alleged abuse to authorities, according to a lawyer representing the school.

The five workers at the school for young men with learning disabilities,

emotional delays, and behavioral disorders all pleaded not guilty.

The employees at the Eagleton School, which serves boys with learning disabilities, were charged Sunday with assault, battery on a disabled person and other charges, according to the Berkshire County district attorney's office.

Attorney Eric MacLeish, who represents the school, told CNN affiliate WWLP that the school reported the alleged abuse last month to state authorities, as is required by law. The criminal investigation resulted from the school's report.

"The school contacted the protective agency for disabled individuals because there was an allegation that a staff member slapped a student," MacLeish told the station on Wednesday.

MacLeish said the school faces no regulatory enforcement actions because of the alleged abuse. His remarks were the school's first response since the allegations surfaced.

The school is still accepting students, MacLeish said. The three victims of the alleged abuse, students in the autism program, are still enrolled at Eagleton.

MacLeish said the school is conducting its own investigation.

A probable-cause document filed in Great Barrington District Court described an incident in which one defendants allegedly struck a student's head against a picnic table. A separate incident describes another defendant allegedly kicking a student. A third defendant allegedly destroyed video evidence of an assault carried out by another school worker, according to the document.

The alleged incidents took place on campus between summer 2015 and early January 2016, according to the document.

The five defendants entered not guilty pleas this week.

Two of the five employees -- Debra Davis, 41, and Juan Pablo Lopez-Lucas, 34 -- told CNN Sunday that they had been instructed not to comment.

The other employees -- identified as Peter Meadows, 51; James Swift, 54; and Brian Puntin, 47 -- were not immediately available for for comment.

According to the school website,

"Eagleton School is a private year-round residential, psycho-educational treatment facility for boys and young men with Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder, Communication and Cognitive Delays, Behavior Disorders, Emotional Disorders, and Learning Disabilities."

Students range in age from 9 to 22, though the average age for students is about 13. The school is located on 40 acres in the Berkshire Mountains, according to the school's website.

The five employees, who have been suspended with pay, will appear in court next on March 10.

David McKay- Eagleton School Comments On Alleged Abuse of Students

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