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Monday, November 7, 2022

Abuse in Malibu

Jonah Valdez and Howard Blume at LAT:
The family of two twins who are nonverbal has won a $45-million judgment against the Santa Monica-Malibu school system after suing over alleged physical abuse by a teacher’s aide who, they said, used hand sanitizer to inflict pain on the autistic children.

The school system declined to comment on the specifics of the civil case but is weighing whether to appeal the size of the judgment or the verdict itself.

The teacher’s aide, Galit Gottlieb, also declined to comment, on the advice of attorneys representing the school system. District officials would not say whether she is currently employed by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

After a teacher reported the alleged abuse to authorities in January 2018, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conducted a wellness check at the home of Charles and Nadine Wong, the twins’ parents, but did not charge or arrest Gottlieb, district officials told The Times. Contacted Thursday, the Sheriff’s Department confirmed that a wellness check was made on Feb. 1, 2018, but could not immediately provide additional information.

The boys, who have a form of nonverbal autism, were seven at the time, and the Wongs said they had been making progress: attending birthday and Halloween costume parties, socializing with relatives and friends and interacting with other children at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in Malibu.

The complaint alleged that Gottlieb, who was assigned as an aide to the twins, used inappropriate methods to control their behavior in the classroom and on the bus to and from school. These methods included twisting their arms and putting hand sanitizer onto the twins’ dry, cracked hands, knowing it would cause them pain, court documents said.