Several Tacoma school staff fired or suspended since ‘04

TACOMA — A state home for disabled people, which saw three workers charged with assault earlier this month, has fired or suspended another 10 employees for abuse or neglect in the past three years.

Another nine workers at the Rainier School in Buckley have been disciplined during that time for other reasons, including sleeping on the job, medication errors and mismanaging a petty cash account, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Friday.

A spokesman for the state Department of Social and Health Services, which runs the school, noted that the incidents involve only a fraction of the people who have worked at Rainier since 2004.

Nevertheless, “the issue here is that anything like this is unacceptable,” agency spokesman Steve Williams said.

“We wish we were perfect,” he said.

The newspaper’s report stemmed from a public records request of abuse allegations and discipline at the Rainier School, which is home to about 400 adults and typically employs about 1,000 people.

State records showed 81 allegations of suspected physical, sexual or mental abuse of residents were reported to officials from October 2004 to this month.

Mark Stroh, director of the Washington Protection and Advocacy System, said his organization worried that Rainier staff may not have reported all the abuse and neglect they witnessed.

“Facilities don’t always do the right thing once they know about it,” Stroh said. “We’ve asked and no one can tell us of any instance where someone who failed to report has been prosecuted.”

Failure to report the abuse of vulnerable adults is a gross misdemeanor in Washington, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The News Tribune inquiry stemmed from an earlier report by KIRO-TV, which featured undercover video that appeared to show Rainier School workers mistreating residents.

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