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Two Families Allege Abuse At Crotched Mountain School

When her son came home from school one day last March, Jessica Giberson was disturbed. She noticed her son’s genitals were bruised and swollen. Giberson’s son is developmentally delayed.  

"He is nine years old. He’s more like a three year old in a nine year old’s body," says Giberson.

Giberson says she complained to the Crotched Mountain Foundation School, but that nothing ever came of it. Then in June, she got a call from the school.

"Well I was told that he was pinched when he did not behave or if he peed his pants," says Giberson. "He was told that there was a ghost under his bed and was going to get him. He was screamed at in the face."

Crotched Mountain fired three staff members. But Giberson says Crotched Mountain didn’t call the police until her ex-husband threatened to call the press.

The Gibersons are one of two families that filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court against Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield. The families allege staff physically and psychologically abused their disabled children - and that Crotched Mountain covered it up.

"They were taking naked pictures of my child and putting it on SnapChat," says Giberson.

Local authorities charged the three employees with a host of misdemeanor and felony charges, including criminal assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Shawn Sullivan is representing one of those former employees, all of whom are still awaiting trial.

"This is distressing to [my client] as someone who works with children and helps children," says Sullivan. "And I would certainly question the motivation and veracity of anybody who did say that she did anything wrong."

The two families are represented by a team of lawyers, including two from the west coast who recently won a $17 million child abuse settlement against two California school districts.

Credit Crotched Mountain Foundation

"This particular case is very disturbing," says Peter Alfert, one of the California-based attorneys, "because Crotched Mountain became aware of abuse occurring in this classroom - and to these children - and did not tell the parents."

Crotched Mountain has a strong reputation for helping children and adults with special needs. Officials there declined to be interviewed, but in a statement COO Michael Redmond says Crotched Mountain took appropriate actions against the employees as soon as they learned of the behavior. Redmond also says the civil lawsuit against Crotched Mountain contains “inaccuracies and falsehoods” that they will respond to in court.

The families are suing Crotched Mountain for an unspecified financial sum.

Before joining NHPR in August 2014, Jack was a freelance writer and radio reporter. His work aired on NPR, BBC, Marketplace and 99% Invisible, and he wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and Northern Woodlands.
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