Trial of Texas special education director charged with assault begins Monday

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HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — The trial of a Texas special education director is scheduled to begin Monday afternoon.

Stacie Koerth, director of special education for the Hutto Independent School District, is accused of unlawfully assaulting and restraining a non-verbal autistic student in 2018.

Koerth, along with fellow special education teacher Karen Perez and Hutto High School principal Roy Christian, were charged two years after the incident.

Christian is accused of failing to report the incident to the proper authorities within the first 48 hours required. His case is expected to go to trial in June.

KXAN contacted defense attorneys and prosecutors in this case, all of whom declined to comment until the end of the trial.

Early Monday, Koerth’s defense and the Williamson County prosecutor’s office narrowed a panel of nearly 60 jurors to eight, including two alternates. The pool of potential jurors included parents of students with special needs, teachers, and people with experience in special needs classrooms.

Of the jury that was selected, at least one identified as a lawyer and one juror said his own child was on the autism spectrum.

In Koerth and Perez’s arrest affidavits, police describe a failed attempt to get a non-verbal autistic student to put on a jumpsuit. The suit, according to court records, was meant to be a solution to an ongoing issue where the student was using the bathroom in inappropriate places.

The files accuse Koerth and Perez of illegally restraining the student in the process – including briefly putting the victim in a chokehold as he tried to flee to another classroom. Part of the incident was captured by surveillance cameras placed in the school hallway, according to court records.

After the two were arrested — and the Hutto High School principal was charged — Hutto’s superintendent said in a statement that the district’s own investigation found that Koerth and Perez used “unorthodox measures,” but that they had discovered that the employees had committed no serious crime or misconduct. suspension or termination.

“They are respected and admired by their peers, students and parents. Their education records are stellar. While the tactics used by Dr. Koerth and Ms. Perez were unconventional and regrettable, no action was taken with ill intent,” Superintendent Dr. Estrada Thomas said in 2020.

The student’s father, Daniel Thompson, said he intended to testify and defend the teachers. Thompson said they told him ahead of time that they planned to try wearing a jumpsuit to alleviate the bathroom issue – and he gave them permission to try.

“I don’t think they got carried away or anything like that. They were just trying to do what was best […] and in my book, that makes them heroes, not criminals,” Thompson said.

The Texas Education Agency is also investigating teachers involved in the 2018 incident at Hutto High School. They have faced criminal charges over the past two years, but according to the Hutto ISD spokesperson, not all of the employees involved were demoted or fired from their positions as a result.

You can read about this and other cases of alleged illegal restraint in Texas special education classrooms in our investigation.

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