Superintendent of Schools Jim Yancey has recommended that a teacher and a teacher's aide be fired for reportedly insulting and verbally abusing a Maplewood Elementary School first-grader who is autistic and cannot speak.
The case was brought to the attention of School District administrators when the child's mother brought in a digital audio recording of the abuse.
The recording, made without the teacher and aide's knowledge, revealed that the women had called the female student “a hippo,” “a beached whale sleeping” and a “hippo in a ballerina suit,” according to School District documents.
The women, teacher Rhoda S. Richardson and aide Deborah J. Adams, were also heard chastising and verbally berating the incontinent child for wetting herself. And they forced the child to wear soiled clothes and clean her own urine. (Both are pictured.)
Yancey said he's embarrassed by this behavior, as well as the disparaging remarks the women could be heard also making about the child's mother. He said he was shocked that “this was going on in our School District.”
“I just want to give my most sincere apologies” to the family, said Yancey.
Yancey said the mother is so upset that she would not speak to him directly when he tried to apologize. Her name and her daughter's are withheld because of the child's age.
The girl is 7 but has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old. She is nonverbal and “will only sometimes repeat what she has heard,” according to a Marion County Sheriff's Office report.
That agency investigated but is taking no action.
The mother, 26, told the Star-Banner on Tuesday that she had long suspected something was not right with her daughter. It all came to a head on Oct. 6, when her daughter was unusually upset and didn't want to go to school.
She took her daughter out for breakfast. While eating, she decided it was time to follow her mother's intuition. She drove to Walmart, picked out a digital recorder “turned it on, put it my daughter's backpack and took her back to school.”
When the girl came home, the mother listened to the recording and learned about the statements, and actions, of Richardson and Adams, according to School District documents.
Adams told the Star-Banner she did not have any comment about the case, saying only that “I do not want my name used in the story.”
In the Sheriff's Office report, a deputy stated that he interviewed Adams, who “took responsibility for her actions.” The report says Adams was very apologetic and remorseful.
Richardson could not be reached for comment. The Sheriff's Office report states that she was considered by her peers as one of the best teachers and a very caring woman. Richardson would not speak to deputies without her attorney, Robert Bradshaw.
The mother said she had been calling and visiting the school for weeks because she knew something was wrong. She said nothing was ever done. After she took matters in her own hands, she has seen great progress from the School District. The mother said she went directly to the district because she felt she couldn't trust Maplewood administrators. The mother said the district-level administrative team has been great.
The child has since been moved from Maplewood to another school that cares for the severely disabled. She has not decided whether she will file a lawsuit against the teachers and/or the district.
“I just don't know right now,” she said.
Yancey said the employees were immediately placed on paid leave on Oct. 11, when the district learned of the allegations.
The School District has been investigating for seven weeks, mainly because School District officials had to verify whose voices were on the recording. Hence the delay in announcing the findings.
Yancey said once staff determined who was speaking on the tape, then the district could take administrative action.
The child's mother declined to give the Star-Banner a copy of the tape. So did the Sheriff's Office, citing a Florida law that prohibits distributing the contents of any illegally recorded conversations.
As for the School District: Officials said the tape will not be made public because the employees still have the right to request a hearing; therefore, the cases are not officially closed.
School District officials immediately called the Marion County Sheriff's Office, which investigated. The State Attorney's Office reviewed the case and determined the teacher and aide would not be prosecuted for any crime.
The School District also contacted the Department of Children and Families, which continues to investigate.
Yancey said the mother did not report the incident directly to Maplewood Elementary administrators, who were therefore unaware of the verbal abuse allegations until the district launched its investigation.
Yancey has recommended that both employees be placed on unpaid leave and their employment terminated. The School Board will decide on Tuesday whether it will support Yancey's decision.
If the School Board chooses to place the women on unpaid leave, the employees would have the right to request a hearing before the board, which can then change its decision or finalize the termination.
According to the investigation, which included determining who said what on the tape, the school system says that teacher aide Adams:
Repeatedly berated the child.
Referred to the child, in the child’s presence, as a “manatee,” a “hippo,” a “big fat hippo in a ballerina suit,” and other demeaning terms.
Said of the child, in the child’s presence, “Do we beat her now or beat her later? I am tired of her being a butt head.”
Said to the incontinent child: “I hope you are proud of yourself, you wet all over the floor.”
Said: “Just put her in the washing machine … she needs washing.”
Repeatedly shouted at the child in response to the child’s actions in the classroom.
Told the child that she would have to remain in her wet clothing after she wet herself.
Knew the child was ill but said she was not going to inform the parent.
Made disparaging remarks about the child’s parent, stating the mother was “full of B.S.”
Consistently behaved toward the child in a hostile, sarcastic, demeaning and negative manner.
The School District also stated that Richardson, the teacher, who was around when Adams made some of her remarks, also:
-- Referred to the child, in the child’s presence, as a “beached whale sleeping.”
-- Used threats of “spanking” and “beating” in attempts to influence the child’s behavior.
-- Required the incontinent child to clean her own urine off the floor.
-- Made disparaging remarks about the parent, knew the child was ill but did not tell the parent, made the child remain in wet clothing, and berated the child in the classroom.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
School superintendent in Florida recommends firing teacher, teacher's aide who verbally abused non-verbal autistic first grader
Ocala online in Fla.:
Posted by BA Haller at 11:53 AM