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Lawsuit claims former Williamsville teacher choked a student

Posted at 5:17 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 18:21:58-04

WILLIAMSVILLE, NY (WKBW) — An Amherst family is suing the Williamsville Central School District and a former french teacher. The lawsuit claims the teacher allegedly choked a 12-year-old female student during class.

7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley spoke with the family's attorney about this case.

"The lawsuit is really out of frustration," said Dennis Vacco, attorney for the plaintiffs.

Vacco is representing Scott and Laura Wexler, parents of a former Mill Middle school student identified as L.W.

The girl claims she was choked by her teacher, Bertrand Juillet, during a 7th grade french class in January of 2018 while students were playing an educational game. She was 12 at the time.

Vacco says the student spoke up during the game and even perhaps 'spoke out of turn, but there was "no excuse" he says for the teacher's behavior.

"There’s no reason - especially in the context – of just an innocuous statement in the classroom – to grab a 12 year old student and, in this instance, a 12 year old girl by the neck – just is inappropriate. Inexcusable," remarked Vacco. "It was in the context of a light spirited, instructional portion of the class. The response of the teacher was totally out of context in terms of what the student said."

The complaint also states the student was "terrified" by the "aggressive and inappropriate conduct." It states the student "immediately reported" the incident to school leaders. The suit claims the district took "insufficient action" to address the teacher's misconduct.

Vacco tells 7 Eyewitness News the school nurse contacted the family the evening after what happened.

"She was distraught - emotional and mentally distraught and physically injured with the red marks - the choking marks - still on her neck – it’s understandable why the school nurse would have been concerned," Vacco explained.

But even after, Vacco says the teacher was never removed from the classroom and this past May was involved in another incident where a student's finger was slammed in a laptop by the teacher.

Vacco explained the complaint wasn't filed until this past spring after the family became very frustrated with the school district for failure to respond to immediate requests to transfer their daughter to another school in the district. Since then, the student has been enrolled at a private school.

Vacco says he believes this case will head to trial. He would not disclose the financial amount the family is seeking in damage. You can read the full complaint by clicking here.

Both the Amherst Police Department and Erie County District Attorney reviewed the complaint, but no assault charges were brought against the teacher.

We reached out to the school district for comment, but told us it has no comment and the teacher is no longer employed by the district. He resigned this past May. 7 Eyewitness News also reached out to the president of the Williamsville Teachers Association, but has not recieved a response,