Jurors adjourn in assault case

CONCORD – Jurors went late into Friday deliberating on whether or not the Hollis school district is liable for the actions of a special education aide who was caught on video assaulting an autistic child.

The trial in U.S. District Court in Concord was brought by a complaint from Ginger and Michael Fortin, the parents of the boy, T.F. The Fortin family claims the special education aide hired by the district, Lisa Keehan, abused their child for years.

The jury started deliberating on Thursday, and continued throughout Friday. They decided to stop for the week late in the afternoon Friday, and will reconvene Tuesday.

The Fortin family filed the lawsuit after seeing the video of Keehan assaulting their son. They claim in their lawsuit that the assault was not a one-time occurrence, based on behavior T.F. exhibited while in Keehan’s care.

Keehan is seen in a May 2014 video pushing then 9-year-old T.F. in the chest, pulling his ear and shoving him down into his chair after he started acting out during a session at the school.

The Fortin family maintains that their son complained about ear aches for a long period of time before the video surfaced. The family brought him to doctors, and rarely had a diagnosis of an ear infection. They also claim that T.F. regressed when it came to potty training after he started being taught by Keehan.

Michael Fortin, the first witness called in the case, testified his son is severely developmentally delayed, with the developmental age of a 2 year old. The child is epileptic and on the autism spectrum.

Amy Rowe, the director student services for the district, testified in her deposition that Keehan had taken hands to the boy just before the video was recorded. Rowe confronted Keehan after seeing the video and recounted their conversation in her deposition.

“She acknowledged that on the very same day as the videotaping, but prior to being on camera, there had been another incident,” according to court records. “(W)hen T.F. required that his hands were ‘pulled off’ the table, and she forced him to his knees in order to get him away from the table.”

Keehan also reportedly told Rowe she thought the district allowed her to pull the child’s ear, according to a deposition.

“Keehan also asserted that she believed grabbing TF’s ear/hair to get him to sit down was permitted by (the) School District policy,” the record states.

Rowe testified on the stand during the trial that Keehan had not said she thought hair and or ear-pulling was part of district policy. Keehan suffers from an undisclosed medical condition and is unable to testify in the case.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashua

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