Sunday, September 14, 2008

Florida - School staffer faces charges

From the
By Tiffany Lankes
Published: Saturday, September 13, 2008 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 at 11:44 p.m.

A special education aide grabbed an autistic student by the chin and shoved his head into a wall two times at Venice High School, police say.

Richard Green has worked with special education students for nine years.

The blows drew blood, and were witnessed by a teacher, police records show.

Richard Green, 58, who has worked with special education students at the school for nine years, was charged Thursday with aggravated child abuse. He left jail Friday evening on $5,000 bail.

Green, who is married and has two adult children, is the second school staff member in Sarasota County's schools arrested this year and accused of abusing special education students.

In February, police arrested Venice Elementary School teacher Diana O'Neill after aides documented more than a dozen instances when she hit, slapped and kicked the disabled students in her special education class. She now faces four counts of child abuse.

The incident happened Monday after the 17-year-old student became disruptive in class and teacher Shannon McNeil asked Green to escort him to the school's behavior specialist.

McNeil then tried to call the behavior specialist to let him know the student was on the way. But the specialist was not in his office, and she followed as Green took the student to an empty room.
McNeil was outside of the room when she heard Green start yelling at the student, the records show. She told detectives she entered the room in time to see Green grab the student's jaw and shove his head into the wall. Another staff member reported hearing Green yelling from her office about 50 feet away.

The impact caused the student's mouth to bleed and left a mark on his face. McNeil told Green to stop and leave the room.

The school placed Green on administrative leave immediately following the incident.

Green made his first appearance in court on Friday, where the judge lowered his bail from $50,000 to $5,000.

His attorney Catherine Sloan -- the same attorney hired by the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association to represent O'Neill -- said Green never intended to hurt the student.

Sloan said that Green had little experience working with autistic students.

Prior to this year, she said he worked as a nursing aide for students with disabilities. She said this was his first year as a personal aide for the autistic student.

Autism is a brain development disorder that can dramatically impact behavior, and cause a person to act out and even become violent.

It is fairly common for students with more severe disabilities to have personal aides who help them throughout the day.

Sloan said that Green expressed concerns about the new job to his supervisors and asked for training to learn how to handle the autistic student. But the training was not scheduled to happen until next week, Sloan said. Green has been working with the student since school started in August.

Sloan said the student's behavior escalated during the incident and he started biting his own arm. She also said the student is about the same size as Green, who is 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weights 255 pounds.

"He had made it known to several of the personnel there that he was not comfortable with the situation," Sloan said. "He absolutely had no intent to harm this young man."

School district spokesman Scott Ferguson said Green has gone through at least three training sessions since 2001 that should have included strategies for handling students with autism.

He was scheduled for training in crisis intervention next week.

The district does not have any specific training requirements for special education aides, Ferguson said, and leaves training decisions to teachers and principals.

The last training Green underwent was in 2003.

The autistic student's father, who did not want to be identified, said Friday he did not know all of the details of the case and believed it was still under investigation.

"In general I don't think that is the type of behavior they expect from a teacher," he said.

This story appeared in print on page BM1

No comments: