Friday, May 29, 2009
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 05.28.2009
Five Tucson Unified School District employees were put on notice after an investigation revealed that a special-needs student at Sabino High School routinely was left restrained to a fence by his backpack from when the bus dropped him off for school to when teachers came to take him to class.
The bus monitor involved said the exceptional-education student, whose feet remained on the ground, was attached to the spoke of the fence so he wouldn't fall over or wander away while he waited for his escort.
Some teachers knew about the practice and documented their concerns in March by taking a photograph of the student restrained on the fence. The photo ended up in the assistant principal's office in early May, according to an e-mail from Principal Valerie Payne to district officials, in which she warned of the trouble it would cause if such a photo were to get out.
In a written explanation in the district's investigative file, monitor Thomas Giacoma noted that for most of the school year he had used the fence and nobody voiced disapproval, adding it was done in full sight of everyone at the bus bay, from teachers to bus drivers, supervisors and students.
"I would never intentionally do anything to a student that would give him discomfort or embarrass him in any way," Giacoma wrote in a letter of explanation to district officials. He added that the student never seemed distressed.
Giacoma said he stopped the restraint in March, when a teacher told him she was outraged that he would humiliate a student in such a manner and warned him that she would get him fired if she saw it again.
It wasn't clear in district records why the teachers didn't report their concerns to administration in March.
Payne was out of the office and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Two exceptional-education teachers and two teaching assistants received letters of direction in mid-May. The letters are not a form of discipline, said TUSD's interim chief human-resources officer, Nancy Woll, but serve as a warning that discipline could occur if the behavior didn't change. The bus monitor received a verbal warning.
Woll concluded that attaching the student to the fence violated a Governing Board policy requiring that staffers maintain a courteous and professional relationship with district students, parents, employees and patrons.
The failure of the Sabino staff members to speak up about their earlier concerns violated another policy requiring staff to report unprofessional conduct.
According to internal e-mails in the investigative file, the student's mother met with staff to help work out more appropriate interventions and appeared to be satisfied with the district's response. Neither the student nor his mother was identified in the records.
Advocates for the disabled said the restraint described in the probe isn't appropriate.
"The fundamental question to ask is, 'Do you want to be attached to the fence, with no means of escape?' And if the answer is no, then we don't have the right to do that to anybody else — and especially for someone who can't advocate for themselves," said Northern Arizona University professor Dan Davidson. He has a doctorate in behavioral disabilities and teaches positive behavior support to teachers who work with people with disabilities.
Davidson cautioned that while he didn't know the specifics of the Tucson case, "in general, it's my professional experience that many instances of restraint can be prevented with better training and support to the adults who are entrusted to teach and care for the students."
Sue Kroeger, director of the Disability Resources center at the University of Arizona and who teaches disability studies in the College of Education, said the restraint described in the investigation is "disrespectful, undignified and totally unacceptable."
Kroeger said she was less inclined to shake her finger than to see the incident as symptomatic of a larger problem — the stigmatizing of people with disabilities. "I think what's huge is how we frame disability in such a way that it would make that response seem OK," she said, adding that people should stop and ask themselves if their response would be the same if they were dealing with a person of color or a woman. "Faced with that difference, we act in ways we wouldn't act with anyone else."
As a mother and a professional who happens to be in a wheelchair, she said people need to reframe their perception of disability from a deficit to just one more variable along the human spectrum.
"This is what we get when we don't stop and think about how we're conceptualizing disability. If we look at it as a subhuman, abnormal condition, this is the behavior we'll get," she said.
"It's how we've been socialized, and it's not anything that's going to change overnight. We continue to improve, but we have a long way to go."
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 806-7754.
Monday, May 25, 2009
CT families and their childrens stories are needed on the Use of Aversives, Restraints & Seclusions,
Looking for stories from CT families whose children with disabilities have been subjected to the use of the Aversives, Restraints and Seclusions in Schools. If you have a story, could you please email me offline at email@example.com?
Please also let me know if your school district (name & district) has given you a copy of the Restraint & Seclusion Law in CT at a PPT? They are supposed to and this started right after the Bill was signed by the Governor in October 2007.Have you ever filed a formal complaint with the State Department of
Education? Or taken the matter any further?
Thank you in advance for sharing your stories with me and I will keep you posted on the outcome of my meeting and the hope of trying to strengthen the Restraint & Seclusion Law in CT.
Angela R Spino, Disability Policy Specialist
CT Council on Developmental Disabilities
460 Capitol Avenue * Hartford, CT 06106
Toll free (800)-653-1134
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Story Created: May 23, 2009 at 9:21 PM EDT
Story Updated: May 23, 2009 at 9:21 PM EDT
STREAMWOOD, Ill. (AP) — Bond has been set at $75,000 for a suburban Chicago middle school teacher and coach accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old former student.
Robert Hope Jr. of Crystal Lake was arrested this week and appeared in bond court on Saturday.
Hope faces criminal sexual abuse and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
The 36-year-old Hope is a teacher at Canton Middle School in Streamwood.
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney James Pontrelli says Hope started abusing the girl in February of last year. Pontrelli says Hope taught and coached the girl.
Hope's attorney Daniel Hofmann says Hope has no criminal record and is cooperating with authorities.
School district officials say Hope was placed on administrative leave.
Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com
Saturday, May 23, 2009
ACTION ALERT: Help Us Stop School Abuse - Write/Call Your State Legislators to Thank Them for Abuse Hearing
"It may be stating the obvious that treatment is not supposed to kill a patient. Yet this happens under the watchful eye of psychiatrists virtually every day through psychiatric drugs, restraints, brutality, assault and neglect.
Horror stories have recently emerged of children dying strapped to beds and chairs.
Learn about these abuses and more on this edition of Freedom Magazine as we expose psychiatry's deadly restraints.
Produced & Directed by Ron Savelo"
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Rj5-Y65618&feature=related
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQv8OsUF7k0&feature=related
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fr52B8mMhPo&feature=related
A group wants action against Cretin-Derham President Richard Engler for releasing the plaintiff's name in a suit over alleged sex abuse at Cretin High in the '70s.
By MARIA ELENA BACA, Star Tribune
Last update: May 23, 2009 - 7:32 AM
The director of the group Minnesota Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called Friday for disciplinary action against the principal of Cretin-Derham Hall High School for releasing the name of a former student who filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a teacher in the 1970s.
On Monday, Cretin-Derham President Richard Engler sent a letter to parents of current and prospective students and to members of the school's advisory council, alerting them to the lawsuit against the school. The suit also names the Christian Brothers of the Midwest.
"Talk is cheap," SNAP director Bob Schwiderski said at a news conference held in front of the offices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "It is a blatant attempt to quiet those that might also be on the verge of stepping out of the shadows of silence."
Engler said by phone Friday that the former student's name was revealed to him in a letter from the man's lawyer and that he included it in the name of full disclosure.
"I wanted to be perfectly transparent with our parents and our Presidential Advisory Council as to what was occurring," Engler said in a phone interview. "There was no ill intent at all. ... I was afraid it would be released in the media, and my parents would be alerted by the media and not by the school. I wanted to be perfectly honest with our parents."
Though Schwiderski demanded the archdiocese take action against Engler, spokesman Dennis McGrath noted that while the school operates under the auspices of the archdiocese, it has no institutional authority over the school's day-to-day affairs. Calls to the school's parents group and to leaders of the Presidential Advisory Council were not returned Friday.
Engler's letter did not include the name of the teacher accused of the abuse, Brother Anthony (Raimond) Rose, who has been accused in a separate suit of sexually abusing a student while a teacher at Minneapolis' DeLaSalle High School a few years earlier. Rose, 76, is now retired and living in Chicago.
The Star Tribune does not identify victims of sexual abuse. An e-mail sent to an address linked to the plaintiff's name did not go through.
Cretin High School was an all-boys academy run by the Christian Brothers of the Midwest when the abuse is alleged to have occurred. Cretin merged with the all-girls' Derham Hall High School in 1987.
On Friday afternoon, Schwiderski held the news conference in front of the archdiocese offices in St. Paul before he hand-delivered a letter calling on Archbishop John Nienstedt to "harshly and publicly punish" Engler.
McGrath addressed reporters on the office steps. "It's ludicrous to say we would discipline the principal of a school," he said. "They're hopping on this as an opportunity to embroil the archdiocese."
In front of TV cameras on the sidewalk in front of the archdiocese's offices, Schwiderski was joined by Dave Leinen, a survivor of abuse at the hands of a Benedictine brother at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. His partner, Carrie Doerr, stood at his side.
It took 40 years before Leinen could talk at all about his childhood abuse, he said. In 2008, he sought help to deal with it. It's a bit easier to talk now, after a year of intensive therapy and group support. But he said he can't imagine what it would have been like if he hadn't been able to choose his own pace.
"I am still and will always be recovering from this," said Leinen, who now lives in the Dallas area. "I can only imagine the terror [the plaintiff] is going through right now. Something as private and scary and frightening as that is, and now everybody knows about it, and he hasn't had an opportunity to explain his side of it. I can't imagine."
Schwiderski noted that other clergy abuse cases have been handled without revealing the name of the plaintiffs. He reiterated his fear that "outing" this John Doe will have a chilling effect on others.
Archbishop Ryan's ex-prez, accused of sexual abuse, convicted of thievery
By JULIE SHAW
Philadelphia Daily News
"The words 'sick,' 'detestable,' 'filthy' . . . are inadequate," Baselice said after displaying a photo of his son, Arthur Baselice III, who died of a drug overdose at age 28 on Nov. 30, 2006.
He then called Newman a "pedophile" and a "wicked disciple of the devil."
After an emotional hearing, Common Pleas Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi sentenced Newman to three to six years in state prison, followed by 10 years' probation, on charges of theft and forgery for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school and his religious order.
He was not charged with any sex-abuse offenses - the statute of limitations in effect at the time had expired - but authorities contend that Newman, 58, started abusing Baselice when he was a 16-year-old junior at Ryan. They also claim that the abuse continued for years after Baselice graduated in 1996 and that Newman gave Baselice thousands of dollars to buy drugs and to serve as hush money.
Prosecutors contended that Newman stole more than $900,000 from Archbishop Ryan and his Wisconsin-based Franciscan Friars order from July 2002 - when he became president of the school, on Academy Road near Chalfont Drive in the Northeast - to Nov. 20, 2003, when he was fired. According to the District Attorney's Office's grand-jury report, Newman stole $331,916 from the school, putting about 56 percent of that amount into an account held by the Franciscan Friars. Newman also had cashed 111 of 223 unauthorized checks, totaling $552,280, from the Franciscan bank account. The Franciscan Friars no longer operate Ryan, the largest school in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Newman raided both funds to give Baselice at least $54,000.
Baselice's parents, who were in court with daughter Ashleigh and other family members, hurled harsh words at Newman, blaming him for their son's death.
Baselice's mother, Elaine, told the judge: "He [Newman] plied my teenage son with alcohol and drugs so that Arthur could be more easily abused. . . . Newman had me believe my son was full of demons. Standing in the courtroom today, I am faced with the true demon!"
Deputy District Attorney Charles Gallagher asked the judge for a sentence of seven to 14 years in state prison.
Defense attorney Frank DeSimone contended that authorities have "no proof beyond a reasonable doubt" that his client had been involved in any sexual abuse, and said Newman admitted having sex with Baselice, but he insisted that it occurred only after Baselice became an adult.
Upon hearing that, Elaine Baselice cried out "Bulls---!"
Later, she yelled another retort, then walked out in tears.
DeSimone contended some of the money Newman stole was double-counted since Newman put some of the Ryan money into the Franciscan Friars' account.
Gallagher added: "We'll never know the bottom line" of how much Newman actually stole. Pointing to Newman, he said: "He knows where the money is!"
Newman had pleaded guilty in March to two counts of theft and one count of forgery. The judge yesterday pressed Newman on what he did with the money.
Newman, dressed in a short-sleeved, red button-down shirt and black pants, said he knew that giving Baselice money was wrong, but alleged that the money was for Baselice's health and not for drugs. He said the rest of it went to parents who needed tuition help and to parishioners. He apologized to the Archdiocese and to the Baselices.
The judge was not satisfied with Newman's answers. She called his explanations "sorely lacking" and "bizarre," noting that if he really wanted to help parents and parishioners, he could have done so by being aboveboard.
"What you were doing is stealing money," she said. "I don't believe you were doing it for good whatsoever."
The "bottom line," the judge said, is that Newman was stealing money for "self-gratification."
Michael McArdle, Archbishop Ryan's president, said Newman's actions took a "terrible toll" on the school.
William F. Coyle, a retired lawyer, spoke on Newman's behalf, asking the judge to consider "the good that he has done in his life."
Under a state law effective last year, Newman is eligible for an alternative minimum sentence under the Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive program. As such, he could be paroled after 27 months in prison.
Newman was taken into custody right after sentencing. The sentence exceeded state guidelines.
Afterward, as DeSimone told reporters he thought the sentence was "fair," an aunt of Baselice III yelled out that she hoped Newman gets treated in prison the way he abused Baselice when he was alive.
Outside the Criminal Justice Center, Elaine Baselice called Newman "the devil in sheep's clothing," adding, "I wish he got a million years, if that was possible."
Although the Legislature has extended the statute of limitations in sex-abuse cases, Arthur Baselice Jr. said he hopes that lawmakers will get rid of it.
Gallagher was "gratified that the court saw through the masquerade and the untruths" of Newman.
Retiring next week after 35 years in the D.A.'s office, Gallagher has kept a photo of Baselice III on his desk. "I'll be able, finally, to put it to rest," he said. *
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER
Amid a wide-ranging debate over the proper use of mental health drugs on troubled children, the mother of a disabled boy who died in 2007 is claiming in a lawsuit the boy was overdosed by a cocktail of psychiatric drugs, including two powerful anti-psychotics.
Denis, who was diagnosed with autism, died of serotonin syndrome, according to a 2007 autopsy by the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's office.
The rare condition, which can be life-threatening, occurs when a combination of drugs -- particularly mental-health drugs -- causes the brain to produce an excess of serotonin, a chemical produced by nerve cells that regulates mood. The condition can cause rigidity and tremors, as well as confusion and high blood pressure, said Dr. Carlos Singer, a professor of neurology at the University of Miami's medical school.
''I miss him so much,'' Quesada, 31, of Hialeah, said of her son, who died a week after Mother's Day. ``This month, for me, is hard because of Mother's Day. This Saturday will be two years since he died. The last time I saw him it was Mother's Day.''
''I know I am happy, because I have two other children,'' Quesada said. ``But I am also sad, because my other son died. It's hard.''
Denis died May 23, 2007. He had gone by van with others from the group home to get a haircut at a local flea market. In the parking lot, he became aggressive, kicking and biting group home staff. An autopsy report said he became unresponsive shortly after staff restrained him while he lay on his stomach on a bench seat in the van.
Quesada's lawsuit was filed amid a high-profile investigation by the Department of Children & Families into the death last month of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old foster child who had been taking a cocktail of mental health drugs. DCF Secretary George Sheldon appointed a task force to study Gabriel's case, and the use of psychiatric drugs on foster kids.
'TOUGH' TO HANDLE
Kaplan did not return calls for comment. In a June 2007 article in The Miami Herald, Kaplan said ''it's possible'' Denis would have been sleepy at school if he had not been given his medications at the right times. But, Kaplan added, ``I never saw him dopey or sleepy.''
''He was all over the place, a tough little guy to handle but very likeable,'' the psychiatrist said at the time.
Rainbow Ranch's owner, David Glatt, whose group homes were shut down by the state in June 2007, could not be reached for comment.
Denis, whose autism was severe, was sent by his mother to a state-funded group home in 2003 after he tried to choke his younger sister. Quesada never relinquished her right to raise the boy, but was afraid his violent outbursts were a danger to her two other children.
According to the 28-page lawsuit, Glatt stopped taking Denis to doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital after he arrived at the group home in May 2006, and substituted Kaplan ''without the consent of [Denis's] mother.'' Kaplan was treating several group home clients, the suit claims.
Kaplan prescribed and refilled four mental health drugs: Seroquel and Zyprexa, both anti-psychotic medications; Depakote, an anti-seizure drug sometimes used to stabilize moods; and Clonazepam, a tranquilizer. The lawsuit says the drugs were used ``as chemical restraints to control Denis's behavior.''
Though some of the medications are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use on children and carry strong warnings about possible side-effects, Kaplan ''took no steps to ensure that Denis was not suffering any adverse effects from these medications,'' the suit claims.
In fact, the suit claims, Kaplan examined the boy only once between between May 26, 2006 and May 23, 2007, the day Denis died.
There were warning signs that the drugs may have been harming the boy, according to the suit, filed by by Fort Lauderdale attorneys Maria Elena Abate and Howard Talenfeld. In June 2006, teachers at Denis's school, Ruth Owens Kruse Educational Center, reported the boy was sleeping through class.
UP AND DOWN
Acting on concerns from his teachers, Denis was hospitalized twice, first on July 17, 2006, at Miami Children's Hospital for emergency treatment, and, later on Aug. 4, 2006, at Baptist Hospital's emergency room. Doctors at Baptist recommended that the dosage of one of the drugs, Depakote, be reduced, the suit claims.
The lawsuit says the dosage was, indeed, reduced, but then increased again about six months later. That winter, the suit claims, the Department of Children & Families child abuse hot line received a call that Denis was being overmedicated, and that Rainbow Ranch staff ``were not seeking medical attention for Denis when he was overmedicated.''
DCF would not discuss the investigation with a reporter Tuesday.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Ferrari family's attorney seeks sit-down meeting with Atlanta Public Schools -- CLICK HERE to read the memo.
Judge John Gatto's ruling in Stefan's case
GA: Bernie Marcus Speaks Out on Autism and Autism Case
11Alive has learned from the Deputy Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools that the teacher involved in this story is "no longer in the classroom."
Atlanta Public School representatives sent a letter to the Georgia Department of Education and Metropolitan Regional Education Services demanding answers.
Stefan is an Atlanta Public School student but because of his special needs, he goes to schools run by a state agency called Metro North.
They line the outside of each leg -- bruises from knee to hip. A judge has ruled a school employee caused these injuries to 11-year-old Stefan Ferrari the day before pictures were taken.
Stefan cannot speak. He has Autism, and is non-verbal.
He could not tell his parents -- couldn't tell anyone -- what happened to him. But he had a mother who believed, before this happened, that something was terribly wrong at his school.
Stefan went to Margaret Mitchell Elementary School in Buckhead, where he was doing well, but he was transferred to the Marshall School in DeKalb County in August 2008, due to renovations.
That's when the Ferraris say things started to fall apart.
"I knew something was really wrong for the first time on September 8th," said Stefan's mother, Carolyn Ferrari.
That's when she said Stefan came home with bloody scratches, bruises and ripped shorts. His behavior over the next month deteriorated.
"It was getting worse and worse," Carolyn said.
Marcelo and Carolyn Ferrari say they repeatedly told school officials they were concerned. So the mother of a boy without a voice found a way to give him one.
"It's about the size of a quarter," Carolyn said about a microphone she sewed into Stefan's shirt. She sent him to school with it on October 21.
It would be his last day at Marshall.
"As soon as he took his boxers off to get in the shower, I noticed it," said Stefan's father, Marcelo Ferrari. "And I was like, 'oh my God'."
Marcelo was shocked by the severe bruising covering his son's legs. He and his wife went straight to the tape.
"Sit down stupid," was one of the things they heard on the tape.
"It was horrifying," Carolyn said. "I was visibly sick. I felt like I was going to vomit."
Carolyn and Marcelo stayed up all night listening to hour after hour of what they say was the neglect, ridicule and abuse of their son.
With the microphone hidden at the base of Stefan's neck, picking up the sounds around him, the Ferraris listened to the adults in the room talk about the size of a boyfriend's genitals.
"The man I'm dating is intelligent. But he has a small penis. You can't throw a pebble into the ocean. Does it matter? Does size matter? Yes it does."
The adults talked about drinking.
"Russian vodka with olive juice. That's a dirty martini?"
At one point in the day, Stefan ate some pizza out of the trash can. The adults joked about it.
"I mean he was chill. Finger lickin' good. He was chillin' with that."
But what the Ferraris heard that horrified them was this:
"You want a be-quiet hit?" (followed by the sound of a thump) "There you go. Get it now, go on."
And two minutes later, listen as an adult tells others to leave.
"Please make him be quiet. Go away. Go. Take a minute. Go. Go on."
And 15 seconds later, there were 18 seconds of thumps and the sounds of Stefan making noises.
"It was numbing, and yet at the same time, you can't stop listening to it, because you're thinking, 'oh my God, if my child went through this, I need to hear what happened to my child'," Carolyn said.
The Ferraris called DFACS and Atlanta police. Both investigations went nowhere. They sued the Atlanta Public Schools -- which recommended the program to the family. What was done to Stefan Ferrari and who did it would be decided in a small state administrative courtroom.
First up, Marshall's principal, Gail Healy.
"At no time after interviewing my teachers, talking to them do I feel he was abused at my program," Healy said.
Attorneys for Atlanta Public Schools said maybe Stefan cause the injuries to himself, but the Ferraris said Stefan was never self-injurious -- and the judge agreed.
Stefan's pediatrician, Dr. Alison Koenig testified.
"It seems to me something like that, he could not have done to himself but somebody had done it to him," she said.
The school's attorneys suggested maybe Stefan's father did it.
In his ruling, Judge John Gatto found, "Stefan was not injured at home...(He) was injured at school...His injuries were caused by multiple infliction of trauma. They were caused by his being struck by a hand or an object by an adult."
The week-long hearing was filled with experts -- educational, psychological, criminal. But the most anticipated witness took the stand on the final day of the hearing: teacher Sherri Jones. And the Ferrari's attorney, John Zimring, got right to it, asking her if she was the one talking about a man's gentials.
"I can't recall if I said it or not," Jones said.
If she was the one talking about drinking.
"I may have," she said.
If she was one of the people joking about Stefan eating out of the trash.
"I don't recall saying that," Jones said.
But after Sherri Jones is made again and again to listen to the audio, her answers changed.
"And that was your voice?" Zimring asked.
"Yes, it was," Jones answered.
"So you did say that?" Zimring asked.
"It came out of my mouth, yes," Jones replied.
"You said that did you not?" Zimring asked.
"Most likely, yeah," said Jones.
"It was you wasn't it?" Zimring asked.
"Umm, that could have been what I said, yeah," Jones admitted.
Jones denies ever hitting or threatening to hit Stefan -- and the judge did not find that she did. His decision stated only that Stefan was injured at school by an adult.
"That is your voice is it not?" Zimring asked when the voice on the tape referred to striking Stefan.
"No, it's not," Jones said.
"Whose was it?" Zimring pressed on.
"I don't know," Jones said.
"You are under testimony to his honor!" Zimring said.
"I do not know whose voice is on that tape," Jones said. "It is not me."
"So you felt empowered to take advantage of these children with disabilities?" Zimring asked.
"No," Jones replied.
Atlanta school attorneys gave Sherri Jones a chance to explain herself.
"I understand how it may come across," Jones said. "But I love what I do, and this will not stop me from continuing to do what I do for the rest of my life."
In his ruling, Judge Gatto used the word appalling -- given that Stefan is non-verbal, and did not have the ability to inform his parents of his mistreatment by employees on October 21. The school's failure to take the steps to discipline the adult educators involved leads the court to conclude that the schools can only promise more of the same.
"He's a different child," Carolyn Ferrari said.
Seven months after he was injured, Stefan Ferrari has made tremendous strides, and is excelling at his new private school. Failed by those who were supposed to support and protect her son, a determined mother did something no one thought could be done -- she gave him a voice.
GA: Mother Records Autistic Child's Alleged Abuse
Ferrari family's attorney seeks sit-down meeting with Atlanta Public Schools -- CLICK HERE to read the memo.
Judge John Gatto's ruling in Stefan's case
GA: Bernie Marcus Speaks Out on Autism and Autism Case
(PART TWO)ATLANTA -- There's outrage over 11Alive's investigation of the story of an 11-year-old boy with Autism -- a judge said the boy was injured at school by an adult. The reaction received in the 11Alive Newsroom after the story aired Monday night has been unprecedented -- and people are demanding answers from the system that educated 11-year-old Stefan Ferrari.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Metro North officials announced they had removed Stefan Ferrari's teacher from the classroom. Sherri Jones admitted in a courtroom to talking about sex and drinking in front of the children.
Judge John Gatto, a judge with the Office of State Administrative Hearings, found that Stefan was physically abused by an adult at his school last October.
* CLICK HERE to read Judge Gatto's ruling.
Stefan, an Atlanta Public Schools student, attended the facility in DeKalb County that is run by Metro North, a state agency. After coming home with unexplained injuries, Stefan's mother sewed a microphone into his shirt and sent him to school on October 21. On the same day that Jones was removed, Atlanta school officials -- who refused to comment on the story for almost two months -- were ready to talk.
* CLICK HERE to read the full text of the letter to executive director of Metropolitan Regional Educational Services, Dr. Fran Davis Perkins* CLICK HERE to read the full text of the letter to the state deputy superintendent of standards, instruction and assessment, Dr. Martha Reichrath
"I'm angry, horrified and disgusted about what happened to the young man at North Metro," said Atlanta Public School deputy superintendent Kathy Augustine in an interview with 11Alive's Jaye Watson. "I know he and his family have been treated badly."
Judge John Gatto's ruling in Stefan's case
GA: Mother Records Autistic Child's Alleged Abuse
NOTE: While we don't always agree with Autism Speaks, we fully agree with Mr. Marcus's remarks regarding abusive treatment of children with autism....
As interest in the Stefan Ferrari case gains national attention with website commentaries and hundreds of emails, one of the country's leading benefactors of bringing awareness and care to children with autism--Bernie Marcus is speaking out.
Mr. Marcus is the Founder of the Marcus Institute and Autism Center and the Co-Founder of Autism Speaks.
His Center has already treated more than 30,000 children with autism---one of the first of those was Stefan Ferrari.
His outrage about what happened to Stefan was intense.
"One out of 96 boys is autistic and when it hits the family it's a catastrophe," Mr. Marcus said.
For the family of Stefan Ferrari, 11, there was hope.
He was one of the first youngsters enrolled in the Early Intervention Program at the Marcus Autistic Center.
His mother Carolyn also became a member of the Center's Board.
"Here you have a kid that was not really easy to deal with. We brought him along so that at least he could go to public schools. To have this insensitivity in the school in dealing with this kid--it just rips your heart out. I mean the parents are going through so much as it is, on a constant basis. It's 24 hours a day--every single day and it's nonstop. On top of that to have this type of thing happen--it just points out we are not dealing with it. Schools are not dealing well with it. The government is not dealing well with it, and it's getting bigger and bigger every day," Mr. Marcus added.
For Bernie Marcus, dedicated to sensitive and patient care for children with autism--the case of Stefan Ferrari was a shocker.
"It's a horror. It's a horror. It's terrible. This kid can't fight back. This kid can't do anything. He can't tell his parents. He doesn't have the ability to share what happened at school and its pathetic...it infuriates me," Mr. Marcus said.
For Bernie Marcus, the emotions are strong.
"That school needs a lot of training. I think the fact that people said we are investigating--we never saw the tape, never heard the tape--it's the old Jackie Mason thing--I didn't hear it, I didn't see it--that's nonsense," Mr. Marcus added.
"They should have paid attention to it. They should have listened to it. They should have taken action, but no action was taken until the spotlight really got big. Bless his mother----I know the mother-she, like all parents of autistic children, is determined. They are fighters. They are fighting all their lives. They don't know anything other than knowing how to fight had she fought. This was a battle that she won and she won it for all these autistic kids that are in the public schools."
But Bernie Marcus, always an optimist, sees a plus side.
He is offering training from the Marcus Institute and the Marcus Autism Center to the Atlanta Public Schools.
"An incident like this could have a good part--every bad thing sometimes has a good thing. I think it now is time to point out to Beverly Hall, who is the Superintendent of Schools, that she has a problem in her schools. That maybe there has to be more training in this. We would be happy to share with them. We would love to share with the school systems how to diagnose; how to deal with these kids; and how to best train them and change their attitudes," Mr. Marcus said.
He is confident that what happened to Stefan will hasten teacher awareness.
"An incident like this puts the spotlight on them and I think what is going to happen is that more people are going to be aware of it. More people will become sensitive to it and there will be teachers who will say--wait a minute--I better pay attention to this. I don't want this to happen to me," he added.
It's an incident that has put the spotlight front and center where Bernie Marcus wants it---on autism---too often ignored, too often treated with contempt.
Posted By: Paul Crawley
Updated 5/18/2009 7:25:27 PM
WOODSTOCK, Ga. -- Woodstock High School special education teacher Laurie Peavy had nothing to say as she left the Cherokee County Jail Monday afternoon with a sweat shirt draped over her head and got into a car with a friend.
Peavy, 44, had just regained her freedom under a $60,000 bond after being arrested Monday morning on two counts each of false imprisonment and child cruelty.
She's accused of duct taping a 17-year-old autistic boy to a chair in her classroom last year and forcing a 17-year-old blind girl to stay under her desk, both apparently as punishment.
Her classroom paraprofessional, Nancy Creek, 49, was also arrested for allegedly participating in the boy's duct taping.
Cherokee County's Sheriff says they began investigating the case one week ago after another special education teacher and parapro team at Woodstock High reported the incidents.
The second pair of apparently came forward after learning that the same students were about to be reassigned to Peavy's classroom.
Sheriff Roger Garrison said the second pair were bound by law to have reported the alleged abuses when they happened last year, but he said they will not face criminal charges since they are needed to testify against Peavy and Cheek.
However, Cherokee County School system spokesman Mike McGowan said the second pair of teachers could still face possible disciplinary action for not coming forward sooner.
McGowan also said Peavy and Cheek will probably lose their jobs after an internal administrative investigation by the school system.
"We're obviously, as a school district, extremely disappointed that these allegations came to light," McGowan said, "especially in a district that is annually awarded for meeting and exceeding state targets in special education."
He said Peavy joined the Cherokee County School System in the fall of 1997, teaching first at Cherokee High and then Woodstock High, and that Cheek joined in the fall of 2001.
At last word, Cheek was still waiting to bond out of jail. Late Monday a magistrate judge reduced her original bond of $30,000 down to $22,000.
Christy Clark, the parent of a fifth-grade student at Chesapeake Elementary, said her son was kept in a timeout room with equipment and other items.
From The Charleston Gazette: http://sundaygazettemail.com/News/200905200822
"When it didn't work out, it was our fault," Annie said.