Texas' new special education director is facing allegations that she tried to cover up sexual abuse of a 6-year-old student at her previous job as special education director for a small school district in Oregon.

Laurie Kash, who was hired by the Texas Education Agency in mid-August, was sued Nov. 14 by Michelle Eastham and Terrianne MacEllven, two instructional assistants at Rainier School District, north of Portland on the Oregon-Washington border.

According to the $1.85 million civil complaint, in October 2015, Eastham and MacEllven heard from a 6-year-old in their special education classroom that she had been physically and sexually abused by a high school boy. The suit states that Kash and her husband Michael Carter, superintendent of the school district, forbade them from reporting the abuse to the state or police, although instructional assistants are mandatory reporters in the state of Oregon.

Eastham and MacEllven reported the girl's statement to the state anyway and said Kash and Carter intimidated and harassed them in retaliation, the suit states.

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The plaintiffs also filed a similar complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in October 2016.

The TEA declined to comment on whether it knew about the allegations before hiring Kash or whether it would take future action based on the complaint.

"We're aware of the lawsuit," said Lauren Callahan, TEA spokesperson. "That's going to be it for today."

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • House and Senate negotiators will have the last two days of the special legislative session to hammer out their differences on legislation tackling property taxes, school finance and other items still in play. [Full story]

  • Pro-business forces, which had for months warned that a "bathroom bill" could be disastrous for the state's bottom line, held their fire during a debate over a bill amendment dealing with the controversial issue. [Full story]

  • With a major bill for students with disabilities flying to the governor's desk, special education advocates are looking ahead to smaller bills that might not survive the upcoming deadlines for legislation to pass. [Full story]

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