Saturday, December 5, 2009

AL: Birmingham Student Says Beaten In Class

12/03/09 5:27 pm | reporter: Yenu Wodajo producer: Jeff Wyatt

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Birmingham, AL - A Birmingham child was allegedly beaten for giving the wrong answers on a test.

Sarah Blackmon claims the teacher used a belt on her son after he missed six questions. The beating reportedly broke the skin.

His mother says her son Tony is traumatized by what happened and she is livid. Her son's disability is learning, not behavioral. She says if she had hit her own child, someone would have reported her to the Department of Human Resources so it is unacceptable for a teacher to ever do so.

"He's in special ed because he needs the help and she did this in front of the class and she humiliated him," said Blackmon.

She says 9 year-old Tony can not get past the beating his teacher gave him. She points to a scar on his leg that shows the remnant of a wound now a month old.

"That Monday morning when he got ready to go to school he was hysterical," Blackmon said.

That is when she knew something was wrong. When Tony told her about the alleged beating, she called the Barrett Elementary School teacher herself.

"She said 'he took the test, he brought it up to be graded, he got six answers wrong and I took my belt off and I hit him.'"

Now, Blackmon has filed a formal complaint with Birmingham City Schools. Her attorney Kira Fonteneau says, while corporal punishment is legal in Alabama, what happened violates the school system's policy as well as federal law.

"We believe that hitting him in that way because he failed to perform was in fact hitting him because he was disabled," said Fonteneau.

Blackmon had Tony moved into another class and says she has concerns about her son's long term response to the incident.

Fonteneau says she is prepared to file suit if the school system does not ameliorate the situation and make major changes to its policy.

"If in fact a teacher is allowed to hit a child for no real reason at all, what type of screening did we go through in hiring this teacher," Fonteneau said.

The Birmingham School System declined a request for an interview. However, its spokesperson Michaelle Chapman did provide a written statement saying the second grade teacher admitted to spanking a student with a belt. She is on unpaid administrative leave.

The statement says, "the assistant superintendent who supervises Barrett has attempted several times to meet with the mother but has been unsuccessful in setting an appointment time with her."

Chapman says the school system has not made a decision about the teacher's long-term future or any further action.

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