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Longview ISD trustees release statement following approval of $2.5 million for students allegedly mistreated by teachers

Longview ISD and East Texas Advanced Academies have approved a $2.5 million settlement for students impacted by alleged abuse by teachers and administrators.

LONGVIEW, Texas — After approving a $2.5 million settlement Monday for students impacted by alleged abuse by teachers and administrators, Longview ISD and East Texas Advanced Academies have revealed what actions were taken once aware of the abuse claims last year. 

On Monday night, Longview ISD trustees gave its legal counsel authority to approve the settlement. Through this, 10 children and their families are set to receive $250,000, according to attorney Shane McGuire.

Six former employees have been charged and indicted in connection with alleged offenses toward students enrolled in the J.L. Everhart Elementary life skills classroom.

Those who have been accused include:

  • Former International Baccalaureate teacher Priscilla Rosa Johnson, 56
  • Former teacher’s aide Cynthia Denise Talley, 55
  • Former special education teacher Cecilia Gregg, 57
  • Former J.L. Everhart Principal Cassandra Renee James, 47
  • Former Assistant Principal Linda Kay Browne Lister, 60
  • Former teacher’s aide Paula Hawkins Dixon, 58

According to LISD and ETAA, the district was made aware in October 2021 that a teacher and two instructional assistants at the J.L. Everhart Elementary life skills classroom mistreated students. 

In a statement, the school said each employee involved was fired or chose to resign. 

“The actions of these individuals was appalling and inexcusable for any educator charged with the care and custody of children," LISD Superintendent James Wilcox said. 

According to Wilcox, each individual was reviewed and the examination revealed that the employees violated their ethics despite their education and training, and that these bad acts likely occurred as a result of the employees being left alone without adequate supervision or oversight by their campus leaders. 

Officials put the following changes in place:

  • Director of Special Education added qualified personnel in the Life Skills classroom.
  •  JL Everhart was assigned a new administrator assumed the principal position.
  •  An educational consultant was added to ensure student would make sufficient progress to  return for the 2022-23 school year on target and having met their prior year goals.
  • Open-door policy was applied throughout the spring semester to facilitate  transparency and allow continued parent participation. 
  • Video placement and operation was confirmed by the District’s Director of Technology.
  • Wilcox required re-training of all teachers and instructional assistants, district-wide by the special education department. 

These changes were taken to ensure the students safety, to confirm that the actions of the JL Everhart Life Skills employees were isolated to that one classroom, and to implement measures designed to regain parent trust, said Longview ISD. 

According to Longview ISD, nine students continue to attend JL Everhart and one is attending a middle school in the district. All 10 students are “successful and flourishing," said District’s Director of Special  Education.

"While there was no evidence that that superintendent or any board member had knowledge of the bad acts or failures on the part of campus leadership, the board believes unequivocally that this settlement expenditure is in the best interests of the District and necessary for all students and their  families to heal and proceed forward," said LISD Board President Michael Tubb. 

Longview ISD and East Texas Advanced Academies, the district’s insurance carrier, and the Texas Association of School Boards Risk Management Fund equally funded the settlement.

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