Harris County Department of Education facing student abuse allegations

- There has been a deeply troubling allegation of physical and emotional abuse lodged against staff members working at the Harris County Department of Education's ABS West campus.

The victim is 20-year-old Evan Johnson, a student challenged with Autism and epilepsy.

"They treated me like an animal. A puppy dog in a pound about to be killed," said Evan.

Evan's attorney, Shiloh Carter of Disability Rights Texas, says there is overwhelming surveillance video evidence from November 17, 2017, backing her client's claim.

In an official allegation of misconduct lodged with the Texas Education Agency, staff at ABS West are accused of slamming Evan against the wall multiple times, threatening to punch him in the face and allowing his fellow students to participate in physical restraints described as brutally improper and cruelly extended, eventually leaving the disabled student bleeding from multiple wounds and deeply traumatized in an isolation room.

"Really escalating the situation with him, that leads to this kind of outright abuse. No one, whether you have disabilities or not, should be treated the way he was treated in this video. It was appalling and horrific to watch," said Carter.

Evan's mother, Melissa Johnson, preserved her son's blood-stained shirt as both evidence and a reminder of what her boy endured.

"I've never felt so bad for a decision I made for him, that they would do this to him, in a place where they are supposed to be helping him," said Johnson.

 ABS West accepts deeply challenged students from all over Harris County. Advocates say they are  children area school districts no longer want to deal with.

"It is a dumping ground. There is not academic instruction going on. It's kids being warehoused in a room with staff standing by in case one of them acts out, so that staff can jump on them and restrain them and use violence," said Carter.

"Their (ABS West staff) threatening behaviors are what escalate the kids. They set them up," said Melissa Johnson.

The Texas Education Agency confirmed it is investigating ABS West, but declined further comment,

Cy-Fair ISD, which placed Evan at ABS West, tells FOX 26 it is aware of the abuse claim and has welcomed him back to the district.

The Harris County Department of Education, which is considered a full-fledged public school district, offered FOX 26 the following statement:

HCDE strives to ensure that best practices within all of our systems are adhered to. The safety of our students is our top priority. Due to the ongoing investigation surrounding this specific matter, we have no further comment at this time.

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