By: Ralph B. DavisManaging Editor
October 5, 2012
WILLIAMSON - “They can’t relay to you the details of what has happened to them, we’re the only voice they have,” stated Kim Chapman, the mother of an 8-year-old special needs child who allegedly suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of his teacher, a case that will soon be brought to trial in Mingo County.
“When you put trust in someone who is supposed to have your child’s best interest and welfare in mind and then you’re informed that the bruises he came home with on his body that were previously unexplained were inflicted upon him as a means of punishment or as a way for a teacher to vent her temper and frustrations, well – there’s truly no words to explain how I feel. Nothing that I’ve ever been through in my entire life would have ever prepared me for this.”
“I will never again walk away from leaving my son in someone else’s care without knowing the taste of fear, and it’s impossible for me to be with him 24/7 since I’m a single parent who has to work for a living.”
Chapman’s son suffered a stroke while being born, which left the entire right side of his body in a paralyzed state. He has undergone 3 neurological surgeries and has an indwelling shunt, suffers from seizures and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He is blind in one eye and has a delay in his learning abilities and requires constant care while in school from a personal aid.
This case, along with two others with similar circumstances, is scheduled for trial on October 16 in Mingo County Circuit Court, where the defendant’s fate will be determined by a jury of their peers.
The reported cases of disabled children being allegedly abused inside the classrooms are skyrocketing across the nation, with many more falling through the cracks that are not brought to light.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in 2010 that barred untrained teachers from using restraints or other techniques that could cause physical harm to children. The legislation follows a 2009 report from the General Accounting Office, which found thousands of instances where teachers allegedly injured disabled students by using inappropriate restraining techniques, abusive seclusion or striking the child with their hand or another instrument.
GAO investigators found 84,354 instances of nationwide reported abuse in the classroom during the school year of 2010-2011 alone that included reports of inappropriate restraint, seclusion or what was defined by teachers and aids as other means of “emergency interventions”.
The parents of Paige Gaydos, a seven year-old student in the Cupertino Union School District in California testified before Congress regarding the abuse of their daughter at the hands of her special education instructor that included the story of how Paige, who is autistic, was wiggling a tooth loose while she was in “time-out”, allegedly enraging the teacher who had instructed her to sit and look straight ahead and to keep her hands at her sides. The teacher reportedly grabbed the child, slammed her down, shoved her head against the floor and proceeded to sit on top of her. The parents were later informed that there had been several complaints filed in the past against the teacher for alleged abuse but that nothing had been done as far as reprimanding her or suspending her from the teaching position.
Testimony before the U.S. Congress included the following statement from Paige’s mother:
“While still very intelligent, Paige has lost the enthusiasm she used to have for learning. She has not, since this incident, achieved academically at the level she did before these experiences. We love our daughter with all our hearts, and believe she will achieve great things in life, but we are saddened by the tremendous loss of innocence and potential that she suffered at the hands of her teacher and the entire school administration that ignored these events.”
Stuart Chaifetz, the father of a 10 year-old boy in Vermont became suspicious that something was happening inside the classroom that was the cause for behavior changes and violent outbursts that the child was suddenly experiencing, along with the fact that his son cried and clung to him each morning while taking him to his classroom. The boy has a severe case of autism and is non-verbal and unable to communicate with others.
Chaifetz spoke with the teacher and was told his son was misbehaving in class, reportedly throwing chairs and hitting other children. The father said he couldn’t help but believe there was more to the story than what he was being told, and decided to wire his son with a recording device and a camera that wasn’t detectable to others and was appalled and sickened when he watched and listened to the events that played out during the school day.
In an interview with NBC news, the father played a video of vinegar soaked cotton balls being placed in his son’s mouth, of him being made to walk on a treadmill until he was physically exhausted, of his lunch being withheld as punishment and the final horrific act of the day was his son being shoved inside a cinched duffel bag and placed outside the classroom in the hallway.
In a case that went all the way to the West Virginia Supreme Court in 1999, the family of a disabled child that was only five at the time of the alleged abuse that included being tied to a chair for extended periods of time in the kindergarten classroom of the Lenore Elementary School, received a judgment of $338,928 for the physical and mental pain he suffered. The case was transferred out of Mingo County and was heard by a Kanawha County jury.
“He was strapped to a chair because he was handicapped – he was strapped to a chair because they knew he couldn’t tell anyone what was going on, and they truly thought they could get by with it,” stated Mary Downey, one of the attorneys who represented the child.
“His parents’ lives have been shaken to their very core as they watched their mildly-retarded son, who had always been affectionate and loving, become increasingly hostile, angry, depressed and hard to manage. Their life as they knew it – is gone.”
In the rules and regulation manual of the United Nations Secretary on violence against children adopted by UNICEF in 2009, the document reads as follows:
“Children who live with a physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health disability are among the most stigmatized and marginalized of all the world’s children. While all children are at a risk of being victims of violence, disabled children find themselves at significantly increased risk because of stigma, negative traditional beliefs and ignorance. Disabled children are often targeted by abusers, who see them as helpless victims. Disabled children must be included in all programs intended to end violence toward and abuse of children. Disabled children cannot wait until issues of violence and abuse are fully addressed in non-disabled children.”
“The lives of disabled children are no less valuable than those of all other children and the short and long term consequences of violence and abuse for them are no less severe and violence against children as a global problem will not be solved unless violence against the world’s millions of disabled children is included in an overall solution to this terrible problem.”
“If you have never had a situation like the one I’ve experienced with my son, then count your blessings,” stated Chapman, with tears streaming down her face. “I’ve faced a lot of adversity in my life, but never anything that has ripped my heart out like knowing that my little boy was crying, afraid and needed me and I wasn’t there.”
“I was at work, making a living to support him, while putting him in the care of a teacher who chose to abuse him instead of treating him like she would have if he were a child without special needs.”
“He is my life and I will always fight for him, for his right to receive as much education as he possibly can in a stress-free environment that doesn’t include physical abuse.”