A Carpinteria special education teacher has requested a civil harassment restraining order against one of her former autistic students. Nineteen-year-old Kevin Hosseini was served the court order in December on behalf of Cindy Rief — a teacher at the SEALS transition program located at Carpinteria Middle School — and Rief’s fifteen-year-old son. If granted, a permanent restraining order could restrict Hosseini from stepping foot on campus or being 100 yards from Rief or her son.
Last November, Hosseini was checked into the psychiatric facility Aurora Vista Del Mar Hospital in Ventura. During one of his therapy sessions and amid a change in medications, Hosseini reportedly said he was going to stab another student in his class and anyone who got in his way, including Rief, explained Kevin’s mom, Debra Hosseini. A nurse at the facility reported the statement to the Sheriff’s Office because of a law known as Tarasoff Law, or “duty to warn.” Rief was also informed. California law eliminates privacy privileges if a psychotherapist believes a patient is dangerous to him/herself or someone else.
But the nurse who called authorities had “less than one year’s experience” and was not an authorized therapist, according to Kevin’s attorney, Michael Damen. In a formal response to Rief’s restraining order request, Damen stated his client denies making any “credible threats” against Rief or ever hitting or assaulting her. Further, Kevin has no recollection of making the threats and had an “adverse reaction to a medication change,” the court file states. Kevin was stabilized and released from the hospital in December. Debra explained her son’s large size — 6’3’’ and 200 pounds — can be threatening to people who don’t know him, but that “he’s really a cool kid.” She speculated Rief is retaliating against her son because she was forced on administrative leave after Kevin filed a harassment complaint against her.
Damen said he was particularly appalled after Rief brought her entire special education class to Kevin’s first court hearing in January. “She’s had too much training not to know how humiliating it was for Kevin to be brought up before the judge in front of his classmates,” Damen said. “Creating and enforcing this sort of ‘us against Kevin’ mentality seems very unhealthy to me. I would be stunned if any special needs teaching expert would encourage such actions.”
In a written testimony, Rief’s former teaching assistant Kathy Stroup stated she never witnessed Kevin hit another student and that Rief was “inconsistent” in handling her students’ behavior problems.
Debra established a blog — the-art-of-autism.com/ — to discuss the matter and share her son’s artwork. The posts have sparked a debate among commenters. Kevin has spent the last several weeks at a non-public school in Ohio, but he will return to California for an autism festival and court date.
Damen added he has never seen a teacher seek a restraining order against a special needs student in his 20 years of practicing law. Both Carpinteria Unified School District administrators and Rief declined to comment on the matter. The next court hearing is scheduled for April 14.