From Albany Times Union:
A venerable Schenectady-based institution that started as a 19th-century orphanage and has since expanded its services is among those being sued for alleged abuse of a developmentally disabled youngster who lived in one of its facilities.
The suit claims the boy, then 12, suffered serious injury after workers atNortheast Parent & Child Society choked him with the power cord of his PlayStation device.
Filed on behalf of a boy identified as “R.W.,” the lawsuit names Northeast as well as the affiliated Northern Rivers Family Services Inc. and Parsons Child and Family Center as defendants.
One Northeast employee, Tajeer Uln, is identified in the court papers, while 20 individuals are unnamed. Uln couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Among the unnamed “John and Jane Doe” defendants are employees of the state Justice Center, the agency that investigates allegations of abuse committed against the disabled.
“His mom says he liked basketball and swimming. Now he’s inside and just stares,” said plaintiff’s attorney Aaron DePass of the youth’s condition after the alleged incident.
The suit was filed on behalf of the child by DePass, Robert Santoriella and Brad Gerstman in Albany’s Northern District federal court.
It seeks unspecified damages. Also involved in the case is the Disability Rights Project, which includes disability activistMichael Carey as a member.
Court documents allege R.W. was “brutally assaulted on numerous occasions by several of the staff.”
In a statement, Northeast Child & Parent officials declined to comment in the allegations.
“As an organization dedicated to preserving the privacy of the children and families we serve, we do not confirm nor deny that anyone is or has been in our care,” spokeswoman Darlene Raynsford said in an email. “Our practice is to fully cooperate with all investigations conducted by authorized external oversight bodies.”
According to the complaint, R.W. was one of four siblings brought by their mother, identified as A.W., to Parsons in 2012 as she “sought to gain stability in her life and the ability to once again provide a home for her children.”
In 2014, R.W. — who has developmental disabilities — was transferred to a Northeast Parent & Child facility in Schenectady.
There he was allegedly struck by Uln, who also mocked and threatened to kill him.
The suit claims R.W. recorded the threat on video with the handheld gaming device. Police were called, but there was no arrest. The video was shown on a local newscast, said the lawyers.
One of the videos posted Monday on YouTube by the Disability Rights Project, an advocacy group critical of the safety net protecting the disabled from caregiver abuse, shows the boy addressing the console’s camera in close-up, his right eye swollen.
“Mom, this is what it looks like — you see this? My eye? He slammed me,” the boy says in the 37-second video.
The suit claims Uln and others subsequently choked the boy with the cord of the child’s PlayStation. He did not receive immediate medical care after the assault, according to the complaint.
Later, though, the youth was hospitalized and transferred to a disability center in the Hudson Valley, where he remains.
The state Justice Center, which oversees facilities caring for the disabled, was notified. The lawsuit states that allegations about R.W. being physically and psychologically abused and choked with the cord were found to be “substantiated.”
Because they are named in the suit, officials at the Justice Center declined comment.
It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the employees who were allegedly involved in the abuse.
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