Trial of Texas special education director accused of assault begins Monday

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

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

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

Christian is charged with failing to report the incident to the proper authorities within the required first 48 hours. His case is set to go to trial in June.

KXAN reached out to the defense attorneys and prosecutors in this case who all declined to comment until the trial concluded.

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

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

In arrest affidavits for Koerth and Perez, police describe a botched attempt to get a non-verbal student with autism to put on a jumpsuit. The jumpsuit, according to court records, was meant to be a solution to an ongoing problem where the student was using the bathroom in inappropriate places.

The records accuse Koerth and Perez of unlawfully restraining the student in the process – including briefly putting the victim in a chokehold as he attempted to flee into a different classroom. Part of the incident was caught on school surveillance cameras positioned in the school’s hallway, according to court records.

After the two were arrested – and the Hutto High school principal was charged – the Hutto superintendent said in a statement the district’s own investigation found Koerth and Perez used “unorthodox measures” but that they found the employees had not committed a crime or any misconduct worthy of suspension or termination.

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

The father of the student, Daniel Thompson, said he intends to testify and speak in defense of the teachers. Thompson said they told him ahead of time they were planning to try to jumpsuit to alleviate the bathroom problem – and that he gave them permission to try.

“I don’t believe they lost their tempers or anything like that. They were just trying to do what is best […] and in my book, that makes them heroes and not criminals, ”Thompson said.

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

You can read about this case and other cases of alleged unlawful restraint in Texas’s special education classrooms in our investigation.

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