Parents of special education students say Detroit school officials attempted to cover up acts of child abuse.
A group of parents is alleging two paraprofessionals at Moses Field Center have been abusing students with special education needs by hitting them with rulers, strapping them down in chairs and dragging students down the hall by their legs, according to CBS News.
The parents are accusing the district and administrators of “not reporting substantiated incidents of abuse to Children’s Protective Services, failing to immediately remove the abusers from the school, allowing students to suffer for months, and withholding information from parents,” according to Chalkbeat.
Three of the four parents and their lawyers from Spectrum Legal Services spoke at a news conference Thursday.
Tanisha Floyd, mother of a 12-year-old student, said she was notified by a district investigator in early June that her daughter had been “one of those children that had been left in a restraint chair for hours, neglected and abused” to the point she soiled herself earlier in the year.
“She even came home one day with pants in a bag and someone else’s clothes on her with feces that she had been sitting on for a long time because they had to change her,” Floyd told CBS News.
Floyd was “super furious” that she hadn’t been notified earlier.
“I’m just hearing about this,” she said, according to Chalkbeat. “This was (an investigation) that was going on in February of this year. It was just heart-dropping to even hear about it, because my child is nonverbal and doesn’t walk on her own, so she needs help with everything.”
Floyd said she noticed in the past several months her daughter started acting out emotionally.
“In the morning, she would cry, saying that she didn’t want to go to school, she just wanted to stay home,” Floyd said. “Looking back on all the information that I’m getting now, (my daughter) was acting out because she was scared. She wanted somebody to be there to help her. So, I am very upset that they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.”
Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said district officials learned of the allegation in January and quickly placed both employees on leave and started an investigation.
The school district released this statement, per CBS News:
“The district removed two paraprofessionals from Moses Field immediately once allegations of student abuse surfaced. The final investigation revealed improper conduct by both employees, one of which is facing criminal charges; both employees are no longer employed by the district. At this point, there is no evidence that school or Central Office administration failed to report abuse against children at the school. The district is prepared to defend itself through facts in Court, if necessary.”
Felicia Perkins is facing criminal charges after the school’s investigation found she allegedly “grabbed a 12-year-old boy by the back of his neck, choked him, and pulled him out of the cafeteria while holding the back of his neck” in January, according to a spokesperson from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office.
Tina Gross, the mother of the 12-year-old boy, said she was notified of the incident two days later by Principal Derrick Graves, but she didn’t understand how serious the incident had been until she received a letter to appear in court on July 18 as a witness, reports Chalkbeat.
The parents are calling for Graves and other administrators and staff of Moses Field to be fired, says Spectrum attorney Michael Fortner.
“We’ve got some very serious allegations going on that need to be investigated not only by the police but by the school board, and there needs to be some accountability,” Fortner said, according to Chalkbeat. “The school board needs to show up and explain what they’re doing so that this doesn’t continue to happen under the Vitti administration.”
Fortner said he expects the lawsuit to be filed by early next week.