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Multiple media outlets are reporting that four-year-old preschool student with autism, who attends South Orange-Maplewood Schools District’s Montrose Early Childhood Center, was forcibly grabbed by one of his teachers, held upside-down, and shaken.
“This baby has bruises everywhere. It seems like she was fighting this kid,” said Candie Wilkins, the child’s grandmother.
The incident happened just before dismissal time on March 27th. Six teachers and paraprofessionals were in classroom, reports NBC News, when the student bit one of the teachers. He was put in time-out and then his teacher “went back over to him and he kicked his legs up towards her and that’s when she had the chance to grab him by both of his ankles and hold him up in the air.” Wilkins said, “apparently he was up in the air for at least 15 seconds when an aide came over and said ‘I’ll take it from here.”
The other four educators declined to intervene.
The following morning the teacher who intervened emailed the district supervisor for student services. The child’s family wasn’t informed until the following day, March 29th, when late in the afternoon the Montrose principal, Bonita Samuels, called the mother, who rushed him to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, where doctors “also found bruises on his arms and leg, a cut inside his nostril and a knot on the side of his forehead,” according to Advance Media. Samuels also reported the incident to New Jersey’s division of Child Protection and Permanency.
However, says Candie Wilkins, “we have not heard from anyone but the principal. We have not heard from the board of education, the superintendent or anyone.”
The boy is mostly non-verbal and, thus, not able to tell his family about his school day.
A recent study found children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are nearly 2.5 times more likely than children without ASD to be reported to the Child Abuse Hotline by the age of 8. A 2000 study in Nebraska found that 9 percent of typically-developing children had been abused or neglected, compared to 31 percent of children with disabilities.
The teacher who allegedly assaulted the student has been suspended. The family, which has withdrawn the preschooler from the district and is asking SOMA to pay his tuition to a private school that specializes in ASD, thinks the four teachers who stood by should be suspended too. “There were six teachers altogether in this classroom with my grandson. One did the abuse, one came forward and four others watched,” Wilkins told the New York Post.
Superintendent Ronald Taylor said the district is “cooperating with the appropriate authorities” and declined to comment further citing confidentiality concerns.