Boy with autism abused at suburban elementary school, lawsuit claims

The parents of an 8-year-old autistic boy are suing his Berwyn school district, saying someone at the boy's school scribbled on his back with a permanent marker.

They say it's not the first time he's been neglected or abused at the school.

“I really wish my son could tell me what's going on because then I could get to the bottom line,” said Lucia Roden, mother. 

However, Lucia says Gianni Fata-Roden is severely autistic, unable to talk about what happened last Tuesday after he arrived at Prairie Oak Elementary School in Berwyn, where he attends a special class of just four students supervised by four teachers.

"This did not happen at home,” said Lucia. “And when I dressed him that morning he did not have anything on his back." 

When Gianni returned home, his mother found a series of scrawls on his back and neck made with a permanent marker. She says because of Gianni’s physical limitations, he couldn't have done it himself.

"I was like, ‘how could somebody do this? What happened? Why didn't the school contact me?’" said Lucia.

On Monday, she filed a lawsuit against Berwyn North School District 98, alleging the school failed to protect her son.

"Either the staff and the employees of the school are not doing their job and are not trained properly, or they're careless and they're not paying attention to these students,” said John Chwarzynski, the family’s attorney. 

Gianni's parents say this is the third incidence of abuse or neglect since 2015 at the school, including a time, they say when someone used exercise bands to restrain him in a chair.

“You just want him to get what he deserves at the school, and we want to make sure that he's safe,” said Steven Roden, Gianni’s father.

In a letter to district parents last week, superintendent Michelle Smith wrote, “Thus far, our review of video footage from the school bus and from the hallway cameras has not revealed anything that would cause us to take remedial action concerning any of our employees.”

The district says Berwyn police are investigating as well as DCFS.

“I just want answers,” said Lucia. “I just want somebody to tell me what happened."

Until they get those answers, the family says they're pulling Gianni out of school.