The parents of a special needs student at Denison High School have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a DHS employee manhandled the student and that the school had no system in place to protect the child from the employee.

The parents of a special needs student at Denison High School have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a DHS employee manhandled the student and that the school had no system in place to protect the child from the employee.


Lisa and Brian Sexton say their child was in a life skills class on Dec. 17, 2015 when Denison Independent School District 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 their child.


The lawsuit filed May 16 in Sherman’s federal district court does not name Mask as a defendant. It says that the Sextons were allowed to see the interaction with their student on a recording made by security cameras. They said the recording they saw had been redacted. The suit also said that the district fired Mask the day after the incident.


The Sextons said the attack was unprovoked and resulted from "a persistent, widespread practice of putting the Life Skills students at risk: a culture of indifference created by Denison ISD." The suit said that the district ignored "Mr. Mask’s criminal history, thereby putting students at risk. This policy created a systemic, widespread risk."


It further said that there was no system put in place that would have allowed the other teachers in the room at the time of the incident to protect their child.


Denison ISD Superintendent Henry Scott said the district is aware of the lawsuit. Scott said students in the Life Skills class do sometimes have to be restrained, but it is supposed to be done in a specific way.


He said the student was sent to the nurse following the incident and returned to class later that day.


Scott said the district fired Mask, who had been employed with the district for approximately six years and who had received positive reviews during his tenure, because the manner in which he dealt with the student on that day was not in accordance with district guidelines.


He said as to the other allegations, that will be up to a court to sort out. Scott said the Texas Education Association certified Mask as an aide for special needs classwork. Scott said the TEA saw Mask’s complete background check and still certified him. The district relied upon that certification to hire Mask, Scott said.


Attempts to reach Mask for comment Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.