A 5-year-old boy with autism was struck by his teacher at the beginning of the school year. The incident is still under investigation at this time, but after only one month of administrative leave, the teacher is back in her classroom teaching.
The incident occurred on August 23 at Dwight Elementary in Russellville, Arkansas.
Tasheena Roper says that the principal called her around 10:00 in the morning and told her that her son, Kemauri, had gotten struck by his teacher, Celia Wortham.
“Of course, I immediately was like, ‘Hold on, what did you just say?'” Roper said.
When Roper went in to speak with staff about the incident, they told her a little more about what had happened. The abuse occurred during Circle Time, which is when the students sit in a group. Roper’s son is typically uncomfortable with Circle Time, and it “triggers him.”
“He got up and started running in the classroom,” Roper said. “She got up and went after him.”
Witness statements were taken from faculty and staff.
“The witness statements say that they heard her scream ‘bad boy’ at him,” Roper said. “They heard the slap, heard him start crying, and then her say, ‘Do I need to do that again?'”
The teacher admitted to spanking the boy. She was placed on administrative leave immediately, but she was back in her classroom teaching a month later, even though the investigation is ongoing.
It seems ludicrous, but the school district does allow corporal punishment. However, a relatively new state law does protect students who have intellectual disabilities from being spanked at school, so Kemauri still shouldn’t have been struck.
Kemauri was in an integrated classroom, not a special needs classroom — something the teacher assured Roper would work out fine when they spoke previously at an IEP meeting.
“If you couldn’t handle him, you should have asked for help,” Roper said about the teacher. “You can’t get away with this, and I’m not stopping until you have to pay for it.”
The Russellville School District has never released a statement specifically about the abuse, since it’s a legal matter. But they have released a statement saying they are committed to keeping their students and staff safe.
Both the Russellville Police and the Arkansas Department of Human Services are investigating the incident.
Kemauri has been transferred to another school in the district, but his mom is still deeply distrustful of the schools.
“They broke his trust, as well as mine. I don’t trust the school system anymore. I’m afraid to send my son to school. I don’t know who else is going to do what else to him,” Roper said.
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