BISD parent Jennifer O’Neal says that her non-verbal autistic child was assaulted by an Adaptive Physical Education teacher at Vincent Middle School while others looked on. First alerted to the incident by a student at the middle school campus, O’Neal next sought clarification from her child’s primary teacher.
“She apologized to me, but she said that the assault did happen like the student said it did,” O’Neal told The Examiner. That was in October 2013. What happened next only left O’Neal more and more frustrated with the way in which the Beaumont Independent School District handled the abuse allegation report.
“There’s nothing that’s been done about it,” O’Neal reported at the beginning of March 2014. “I feel like nobody is taking me seriously, or even cares about my son.”
The assault in question occurred when the child’s APE teacher was returning the student to class. The autistic, non-verbal 12-year-old became antsy during the class change, prompting the APE teacher to hit the child with something that was in her hand. While the child’s Life Skills teacher and mother contend that the object was a binder clipboard, the APE teacher claims it was rolled up attendance documents she used to strike the boy. The APE teacher confirmed her actions — to a degree.
“I did not hit him,” she said with conviction. “I smacked him with a paper.”
Five months after the incident, O’Neal was granted a meeting with the APE teacher, other special education providers, and special education administrator Debra Williams.
“It shouldn’t have happened at all,” Williams said of the incident, regardless of the instrument used to punish the special needs student. “There are other ways to redirect a child.”
O’Neal said that, although her son is no longer receiving services from the APE teacher, the teacher is still in the same position and has received no formal reprimand for her actions.
“It doesn’t matter to me what she hit him with really. It doesn’t matter to me if she thumped a toothpick at him, that’s no way to correct an autistic child,” O’Neal said. “Special education teachers need a certain kind of patience, you can’t just go around hitting kids like that. My son is out of there, but what about other kids she’s in charge of? She hasn’t even been reprimanded for this.
“It’s just wrong.”