Broward News

Autistic Boy Sexually Assaulted at Palm Beach School for Autism, Lawsuit Claims

A sexual abuse lawsuit has been filed against the Palm Beach School for Autism. The lawsuit, filed by the parents of a 13-year-old autistic boy, alleges that classroom assistant Christopher Breland sexually assaulted the student.

The lawsuit alleges that the school attempted to cover up the incident, which happened in November of last year. The school was evasive in reporting the abuse, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, on November 18, 2013, Breland sexually assaulted the victim, a severely nonverbal autistic boy.

Breland also sexually assaulted the boy on several occasions prior to this incident, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit says that the school intimidated and threatened employees to keep mum on the alleged sexual abuse.

The Palm Beach School for Autism, located at 8480 Lantana Road in suburban Lake Worth, is a nonprofit charter school. It opened as a preschool in 1996. The students who attend the school are children with different levels of autism.

In December, CBS 12 reported that the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office had two open investigations involving a teaching assistant at the school.

Complaints about the school's executive director, Ann Eisenberg, emerged after the two cases were reported, with former and current employees accusing her of orchestrating covers-ups with threats and intimidation.

"A school for autistic children must not allow the children they serve to be sexually abused and exploited," said Jeff Herman, the attorney for the victim -- who remains unidentified. "According to our lawsuit, Palm Beach School for Autism exploits the fact that its students are nonverbal to aid in a culture of secrecy."

Hermand and the victim's family plan on holding a news conference Wednesday afternoon to address the case in more detail.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph