After multiple open records requests, a law firm representing the Denison Independent School District released that the district settled a May lawsuit for $500,000.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article erred in the article and headline in identifying who would actually paid the $500,000 that was given to the family who sued. The DISD paid $50,000 for expenses involved in the case including its legal fees. The district’s insurance carrier paid the remaining amount of the $500,000 settlement.)

After multiple open records requests, a law firm representing the Denison Independent School District released that the district settled a May lawsuit for $500,000.

The parents of a special needs student at Denison High School filed a federal lawsuit last year alleging that a Denison High employee manhandled their son while he was a student at the school and that the school had no system in place to protect the child from the employee.

In a hearing held in early May, in Federal District Judge Amos Mazzant’s courtroom in Sherman, Meredith Prykryl Walker represented the district along with Denison ISD board of trustee President Randy Sedlacek, while Anthony O’Hanlon represented the Sexton family. Ed Richardson represented the Sextons’ son, who was not named in the suit.

Walker advised Mazzant that the Denison ISD board approved the settlement and both sides asked that the settlement terms be sealed to safeguard the interest of the Sextons’ son. After some discussion, Walker said, while the district would comply with the request not to voluntarily disclose the terms of the settlement, it will have to comply with open records requests to the extent required by the law.

On May 3, the Herald Democrat filed a freedom of information request with the district for the terms of the settlement. On May 11, the district’s attorney responded to that request saying that the information sought couldn’t be released because it was confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Texas Government Code Section 552.114. On June 13, the Herald Democrat again sought the dollar amount of the settlement in a new open records request.

On Tuesday, the Herald Democrat learned that the district settled the case with the family for $500,000. The DISD paid $50,000 for expenses involved in the case including its legal fees. The district’s insurance carrier paid the remaining amount of the $500,000 settlement. 

The Herald Democrat again asked for information about what changes the district might have made to its policies because of the settlement of the case. The district’s attorneys did not immediately respond to that request Tuesday afternoon. When the case was first settled, the district cited a confidentiality clause in the settlement as a reason not to disclose any additional information about the case.

O’Hanlon responded to the Herald Democrat’s request for more information about the settlement Tuesday, however, he said none of the parties of the case were allowed to speak about the specific terms of the settlement.

Lisa and Brian Sexton said their child was in a life skills class on Dec. 17, 2015 when Denison ISD employee Mark Mask placed the child in a choke hold, applied arm bars to the child, threw the child on the floor and then dropped a knee on the child’s back with unnecessary and excessive force, throwing the child on the floor while his hands were behind his back so he could not break his own fall. The suit said two other DISD employees, who were not named in the filing, stood nearby and did nothing to protect or help the child.