Who abused autistic child?

Mother claims he was injured by teacher; school says there is no evidence to prove that

BY SHANAE STEWART
Observer staff reporter
stewarts@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 10, 2019

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THE Best Care Special Education School in Kingston says it is unaware that one of its teachers abused a seven-year-old autistic child in April, despite the insistence of the child's mother, Kimala Aloba, that her child was hurt at the school and “suffers from the ordeal to this day”.

“My seven-year-old son came home from school on April 10, leaned over on the bed and I remember telling him to get up because he had just come from school.

“I also realised he looked sad, but wasn't paying much attention to that, and proceeded to remove his uniform when I noticed a scar on his chest,” Aloba said.

She told the Jamaica Observer that she decided to treat the scar with an ointment and that is when she realised how extensive the bruises were on her child.

“When I saw how big the scars were I was enraged. I called his twin brother's teacher and asked if there was a fight involving my son and was told there wasn't a fight.

“She said she had seen a mark on his chest and Kerr's teacher told her that he was the one who did it, and she had put a note in his lunch bag,” the mother said.

“I went for the lunch bag and searched for the note and it said, “Today, Kerr refused to do his school work. He scratched his face and chest when repeatedly asked to do his work. Please have Kerr complete the worksheet.”

Aloba then claimed her son did not have any scratch marks, as mentioned in the note that the teacher wrote. To her, the scars resembled that of pinch marks.

“I carried him to Children's Hospital and then went to a meeting [at the school] the following Thursday after the incident. I showed the principal the bruises and I said, 'Miss look at my child. If mi did send him come to school like this, unu woulda lock me up, so how unu must send back my child to me like this'?” she said.

“When the teachers came into the room where the meeting was being held the boy started to cry. He is autistic so he cannot express himself using words very well, but why would he begin to cry at the sight of his form teacher or her teaching aide and stop when they are not around?”

“I then turned to the form teacher and pointed out the inaccuracy of what she wrote,” said Aloba.

The mother said that she asked the form teacher where were the scratches she had written about in the letter, and she was told the scratches were there.

“When the form teacher looked at me and told me that the scratches were there, I asked her if I was a miracle worker because there were no scratches on his face.

According to the mother, the form teacher was sent to call the teaching aide and when she came into the room, the guidance counsellor removed the child's clothes, asked the teaching aide if she knew anything about the bruise marks and once again her son began to cry.

“I don't believe that the form teacher who wrote the letter had actually looked at my son on the day because she wouldn't have written that his face had scratches. Her assistant, was the one who had classes with Kerr on the day of the incident. That is what I was told by the form teacher.

“And, in the past, the teaching aide told the boy's brother not to help him with his homework but to allow him to do it himself. And in a previous meeting she admitted to me that she shook him and 'rough him up' because he did not want to button his pants on his own,” Aloba alleged.

“I don't know if she knows but if you shake an autistic child, it can trigger a seizure,” Aloba said.

“Since the incident, my son has not been able to sleep at nights. He trembles throughout the night and even jumps out of his sleep,” the obviously distraught mother said.

“I went to the police station to report the situation on April 12 but a statement wasn't taken. They told me they could not help me and sent to me the Ministry of Education.”

Aloba said that she went to the ministry responsible for children with special needs and she did not receive any redress there either.

“After the Easter break, the same form teacher and the teaching aide that he is now afraid of were put back in the class, and all the school can tell me is that they will be installing cameras going forward.

“All that is fine, but what about how the teacher [allegedly] hurting my child? Where is the justice for my child? He cannot go to school because he is so traumatised,” she said.

“Maybe this is not the first time she has done something like this at the school and maybe she will strike again if nothing is done,” the mother further alleged.

When the Observer spoke with the principal of the school, Autense France, and the chairman of the board, Orville Johnson, they said that they have conducted investigations but was not provided with enough facts to say without a doubt that the teacher was the one who bruised the child.

“Something happened and we are not certain if any of the ladies are really involved. I can't even tell if it really happened here and I can tell you about an incident when I was working elsewhere, and some parents came to the institution and caused a scene because they believed that the guidance counsellor had beaten their son.

“The child had a mark across his butt and the father of the child even went as far as abusing the guidance counsellor.

“That child is similar to Kerr where he couldn't really express himself well and the parents were ready to go to war. When we questioned if that incident could have happpened at home, the parents would not have it and about a month later they found out that it was the helper who did it,” France said.

“We understand the mother's pain in this situation but at the same time I can't just point my finger without concrete proof.

“What I did was to remove the teacher from the primary section of the school and placed her with the secondary students who are able to speak and express themselves,” the principal said.

The chairman of the board said that after investigations were carried out, there wasn't anything definite that they could act on.

“We didn't find anything that we could move and take action on right away because there wasn't anyone who was culpable. So, what we decided to do is to move aggressively to install working cameras so that when any incident occurs, we have as much evidence as possible to assist us in the investigations,” Johnson said.

When the principal was asked whether or not the child who was allegedly abused began to cry when his form teacher entered the room in which the meeting was held the day after the incident, she told the Observer that tears did begin to run down his face at the sight of his teacher, but she could not say why that happened, as he may have been crying for another reason other than the teacher hurting him as the mother believes.

France could not state whether or not the child began to cry at the sight of the teaching aide, as she was not present when she was called into the meeting.

“I did not see the child on the day of the incident and neither was the incident reported to me. However, on the day of the meeting, I did see scratches on the torso of the child. The mother said there were no scratch marks on the child's face, and I did not really observe any either but that doesn't mean they were not there before,” the principal said.

When the reporter argued that the fact that the child is of fair complexion, the bruise in the face that the teacher wrote about would be visible even just a day after, the principal said, “There was just an old mark that the mother seemed to be aware of. I can't say there wasn't a mark there before as I only saw him the day after. Because he is fair, if he had a little scratch it would probably clear up. But I did not see any.”


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