They are children with severe disabilities who were physically and emotionally abused. It happened at Katy ISD's Exley Elementary School. Deeply disabled kids incapable of making an outcry punished over and over by educators who jammed vinegar soaked cotton balls into their mouths and used a treadmill to inflict exhaustion and suffering. In the Fall of 2011, Katy ISD terminated the teacher and two classroom aids responsible. Criminal charges were pursued, but later dropped.
Erin Mills was a campus administrator at Exley and also the mother of a special needs child being educated there.
"You hear rumors, but I can honestly say I didn't believe them," said Mills.
When allegations first surfaced, she staunchly defended the colleagues accused of abuse, that is, until months later when it became heartbreakingly clear that her little boy was among their victims.
"We didn't have a clue until, honestly, we were in crisis and now we are living there," said Mills.
While Erin's son is autistic, he is also verbal and never reported to his parents any mistreatment in the Exley special needs classroom. But after months of suppression and silence the 8 year old suffered a life threatening break down.
"He was so fearful of those teachers finding him he didn't want to tell anyone. In April we were notified by the counselor that he was suicidal and that he had attempted to commit suicide on multiple occasions," said Mills.
The psychiatric diagnosis was post traumatic stress so deep and painful it pushed a first grader to the brink of killing himself. After months of therapy he summoned the courage to talk about what happened.
"They put ugly stuff in my mouth. They hit me. They made me go fast on a treadmill and what they did to my friend Zachery, that was mean," said the child whose parents have asked Fox 26 to identify as Miles.
"He would say they would make him run like a lab rat. He felt like a lab rat," said James Mills, Miles' father.
"The things he said those teachers made him believe are unforgivable," said Erin.
Erin said she loved Katy ISD and had hoped to complete a long career there, but this summer she resigned to care for her son full time.
"They need to come clean. Other parents need to know what happened," said James.
The Mills say Katy ISD turned fiercely on their family first denying that their son was exposed to the abusive educators and then refusing to deliver resources.
They believe the district they once cherished is engaged in a cover-up and their son is suffering because of it.
"He lives in constant fear. He intrinsically feels he is bad and deserves to die and that more than anything needs to fall on their shoulders. They should have told us," said Erin.
For the lack of disclosure Erin Mills blames her one time boss and friend former Exley principal Imelda Medrano who is still employed at Katy ISD despite back to back special needs abuse scandals on her watch.
In response to the Mills' allegations Katy ISD offered Fox 26 a statement which reads in part:
"Since these latest issues came to light in the Spring..staff members have been working diligently with the family to provide the services that are necessary to address the issues that he is currently facing. Regardless of the cause, our goal is to insure that he is provided with the help and support that he needs at school and at home."
The Mills says it's time Katy and other Texas districts adopt serious safeguards like surveillance cameras as an electronic guardian for children incapable of protecting themselves.
"It holds teachers accountable and had a camera been in that classroom I can guarantee you they wouldn't have done the things that they did," said Erin.