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Article updated: 12/12/2012 5:25 PM

District 129 admits aide brought hot pot into classroom

By Harry Hitzeman

West Aurora School District 129 is fighting a lawsuit filed by the parents of a prekindergarten special needs student who they say suffered third-degree burns from a cup of his teacher's hot tea in November 2011.

School district attorneys acknowledge in court papers that a teacher's aide at Hope D. Wall Elementary School brought a hot pot into the classroom to heat the water, which is a violation of district policy.

Horacio Carmona and Cristina Vivaldo sued the district earlier this year, arguing the district and its staff were negligent in a Nov. 11, 2011 incident in which their then-3-year-old son was burned when he knocked over a cup of tea that was set on a table.

A teacher's aide also has been added to the lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial and damages in excess of $50,000.

According to the suit, the toddler, who is mentally challenged, presumed autistic and without the ability to speak, knocked over the cup and was burned on his face, neck and torso.

Attorneys for the boy, who will be 5 this spring, argue that the district's own individualized education plan for the child stated he needed constant supervision.

School district attorneys say in court papers that an aide did bring an electric hot pot into the classroom.

"This defendant admits only that there was an oral school policy that apparently prohibited the use of hot pots or tea kettles in the classroom," defense attorney Melissa Mitchell wrote in court papers.

The district also said the aide was not aware that hot pots or tea kettles were prohibited.

Mitchell also has argued that the primary teacher is immune from liability under the Tort Immunity Act, part of which states a teacher is immune from liability if exercising policy and discretion, according to court records.

The lawsuit also contends school officials should have taken the boy to the hospital sooner for treatment.

Both sides return to court Feb. 6.

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