IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - An Idaho Falls middle school student is learning how schools are supposed to treat her after allegedly being abused by a special education teacher.
Hannah McClellan attended elementary school in Kings Mills, Ohio, from 2006 to 2010 when her family moved to Idaho Falls after her father got a job here. It was less than a year later Amy and Michael, Hannah's parents, found out about the abuse she endured while attending school there.
We met with Hannah and her parents to find out how she is doing at Eagle Rock Middle School, and found out more about how School District 91 works with special-needs children.
Hannah is now an eighth grader, and has the rare disorder called congenital disorder of glycosylation. She's a cheerleader and, her parents say, an avid learner.
(For more information about Hannah, you can go here: http://bit.ly/1f89b9q.)
"She doesn't ever let anything stop her," said Amy McClellan.
But she's also allegedly a victim of abuse at the hands of her Kings Mills, Ohio, Columbia Elementary School special education teacher, Amanda Kitcho.
In a lawsuit filed in early 2012, abuse brought into light by a teacher's aide states Hannah was strapped into a chair made specially for her to use, the nylon handles were twisted around the chair and duct tape all contributed to physically restrain her.
The documents also say Kitcho also forced Hannah to crawl to the bathroom, rather than use her specially-designed walker, and Hannah was also locked and secluded in restrooms and janitorial closets.
The suit also reads that Hannah and other children were deprived of their lunch and snacks, something Amy agrees with. Amy said Hannah weight 37 pounds when they left Ohio for Michael's new job in Idaho Falls.
"Hannah knows nothing about this," Amy said, although Hannah is going to therapy regarding what Amy says are unclear anger issues.
However, Amy and Michael both say Hannah has improved dramatically since moving to Idaho. Amy said Eagle Rock and the school district communicate with her on a regular basis.
"I told them about Hannah's likes and dislikes and her medical situation, and they took it on with stride," Amy said. "They work with me, and it is very easy."
Debby Marshall, special education consulting teacher with School District 91, said teachers and parents need to work together for kids with any type of need.
"They know their kids better than we do," she said.
Marshall said the teachers and staff take each child's needs into consideration on a case-by-case basis. She said sometimes there will be one teacher in a classroom and other times there will be a teacher or aide for each student. She also said while some kids are in the special education classroom about 40 percent of the time, students spend a lot of time with their peers.
"I think it's just important to have a team approach, involve parents and do everything interspersed for the kids," McClellan said. "Go on their strengths, and build upon that. Don't look at all the negatives."
Advice that Amy and Michael are taking with Hannah, but they say Hannah is a tenacious 14-year-old who can accomplish anything she puts her mind to.
"I don't see anything stopping Hannah," Amy said. "Hannah can go wherever she wants to go. She's a very determined little girl and I see that in everything she does."
Hannah added that she did not want to go to high school, because she has made friends in middle school. But when she does go on, she has plans.
"Police man," she said.
"She wants to be a police officer," Amy said. "She loves that show 'Cops'."
But although Hannah may be doing well, what has happened with the teacher? In January 2012 she was placed on paid leave, then worked out a deal with the school district to resign with a positive letter of recommendation.
Currently the McClellans have two pending lawsuits. The first deals with the after-effects of the abuse, while the second is in regards to what they say was a lacking education for Hannah while she was at school in Ohio.
Four more lawsuits have been filed against the school district, all alleging similar types of abuse. One of the points that has the McClellans the most upset: allegations that school district officials knew the abuse was going on, but did not contact the parents or the police.