Mother files million-dollar lawsuit against town

A Trumbull mom has filed a million-dollar lawsuit against the town and school board, alleging that employees in a special needs program left her intellectually disabled daughter unsupervised, leading to her wandering alone for hours, and possibly being briefly abducted.

According to a lawsuit filed August 11, Megan Gereda, 20, and 11 other students were scheduled to take a field trip to a Trumbull park. The students are participants in the Educating Learners in Transitional Environments (ELITE) program.

The group had assembled at the Helen Plumb Building, where they loaded into two vans for the trip. Megan was in the bathroom when the rest of the group left, according to the lawsuit.

Staff did not notice Megan was not among the students until they reached the park, at which point they rushed back to the Plumb building to search for her. Police eventually found Megan on Reservoir Drive, about 1.5 miles away. Attorney Thomas Ganim, who is representing Megan and her mother, Linda Gereda, estimates Megan was missing for a little over two hours.

“It’s a frightening scenario,” Ganim said. “You have a special needs girl left unsupervised, walking along and across busy roads.” Megan, who has Down Syndrome and also has a heart condition, was “sweaty, disoriented and tired” when police found her, Ganim said.

In the lawsuit, Ganim also states that Megan at some point was “lured into a red vehicle by a man,” although details of that particular incident are sparse and are based on multiple accounts Megan has related to her mother and her therapist.

“The details of that are not entirely clear at this point, due to Megan’s inability to articulate exactly what happened,” Ganim said. “That is still being investigated.”

The suit alleges seven specific instances of negligence, including not supervising Megan properly, not noticing she was not on the bus, and not calling police promptly when they determined she was missing.

“It was Megan’s mother who called police, more than an hour after she was discovered missing,” Ganim said.

Staff also misled police about the length of time Megan had been missing, and also misled Linda and police by stating that Megan had wandered off, Ganim said.

“Megan didn’t wander off, they wandered off without her,” he said.

As a result of the incident, Ganim said Megan is emotionally traumatized, suffers from sleep problems, disorientation and separation anxiety, which has caused her to require medical treatment and psychotherapy.

The suit seeks monetary damagers of $1 million.

Town officials referred requests for comment to Town Attorney Dennis Kokenos, who said the case had been sent to the town’s insurance carrier for review. Any legal representation would likely be by an outside firm.

The tragedy, Ganim said, is that the entire situation could have been easily avoided.

“This shouldn’t have happened and a simple head count would have avoided it,” he said. “These students require constant supervision, they’re in that program for a reason. Everyone should be accounted for before you leave.”