Luisa Gaytan was shocked to hear her son's Special Needs teacher was under investigation by CPS, months after the teacher had already been removed from the classroom for physically mistreating students months before.
"I was concerned since January of this year. That's when I got really concerned because from one day to the next she was gone and there was no explanation as to why and I felt something in my gut, something was wrong," Gaytan said.
Gaytan asked the administrators at Terra Vista Middle school what happened to cause her son's teacher to suddenly leave the classroom but administrators would only tell her that it was an administrative move.Since her first inquires in January, Gaytan has continued to push for answers. The lack of communication, she said, has left her angry at school administrators and the teacher who mistreated her son.
But she's not alone. Gaytan and two other parents with children in the same class are also angry. Christina Olivo was so frustrated she called KAMC Investigates for help.
"I just felt like this story, what was going on at the school, needed to be told about what was going on with the teacher," Olivo explained. "It was physically and mentally abusing our children and nothing was being done."
Sherry Reed, the third concerned parent we spoke with, said the situation is made worse because the class is a Special Needs class and includes students with a range of disabilities--including kids like her daughter, who is unable to talk."She has Angelman's Syndrom and does not talk," Reed explained. "So you can imagine the horror to know that she was being mistreated."
Reed said her concerns started long before January. In fact, she became worried at the start of the school year, when her daughter was new to the class, because, Reed said, her daughter suddenly hated going to school.
"Kelsey loves school, absolutey loves school and she fought us from september through January not wanting to get on the bus. That's not normal," Reed said.
Olivo said her daughter had similar problem.
But all three mothers said their fears turned into nightmares when they were told their children had been physically and verbally mistreated by their teacher.
"To grab her by the chin and say 'do you not understand? understand?' I mean, come on, I don't even talk to my daughter that way and this lady's gonna grab her this way? no, i don' t think so," Olivo said.
KAMC also spoke with a a former teacher's assistant, who asked not to be identified, about what happened inside the classroom. According to the teacher's assistant, what happened to Olivo's daughter is just the tip of the iceberg.
"In one situation, she took a child by his hand and bent his hand all the way back and pinned him up against the door and yelled 'you will not hit me," the teacher's assistant recounted.
But that's not all. The teacher's assistant said the physical mistreatment was not an isolated incident.
"I watched her take a child by his hand and pull it all the way back to where it was pulled back past his wrist and he's, you know, bending down to the ground because he's hurting so bad," she said. "And then she looks at me and tells me 'I'm sure you didn't learn that at MAB training. And that was, that was it, that's when I was like 'I have to report all of this.'."
assistant first reported the mistreatment to the principal at Terra
Vista Middle School in mid-January. She did not file a report with Child
Protective Services, however, until after she was terminated from the
school district in early May.
Frenship ISD issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying, in part:
"Frenship ISD takes allegations of abuse very seriously and will always take corrective action should there be truth to the allegation. However, there are factual errors in the allegations presented... The District evaluated all information available and determined that the conduct did not rise to the level of abuse or neglect."
But the allegations were substantial enough for Frenship administrators to remove the teacher from the classroom to investigate, according to a Central Office administrator who met with Luisa Gaytan in late April. KAMC Investigates obtained a recorded copy of the meeting.
On the recording
Gaytan asks the administrator what she did with the complaints of
physical mistreatment. The administrator responded by saying that "[she]
started investigating and taking care of it..." She later goes on to
tell Gaytan that "[she] was over there taking care of it, and it led to
[name omitted]'s resignation."
That's something that doesn't sit very well with Sherry Reed.
"To continue to pay that teacher and do nothing, for me, that's my biggest issue. i want her license," Reed said. I don't think she should be a teacher ever again."
statement on Thursday continued to defend their action saying, "the
District has addressed all aspects of this matter in accordance with
both state law and school district policy."
"It's just been heartbreaking," Gaytan said, "I know I can speak for myself and probably these other parents, we've not had a good night's sleep ever since."
For Sherry Reed, it's a matter of sticking up for her daughter.
"If I don't talk then she doesn't have a voice," she said. "I mean, I'm her voice. to feel like you can send your kids to school, and they will be taken care of and then to know that they're not, I felt like a bad mom."
KAMC did speak with the teacher in question over the phone Thursday. She pointed out that CPS also investigated the allegations against her and cleared her of any wrongdoing.
We also spoke with another parent of a child who attends the class who said she visited the classroom frequently. That parents told us she never had a problem with the teacher and never witnessed the teacher physically mishandle any student.
To see a complete copy of Frenship's written statement in response to this story, you can read it here.
If you have a tip or a problem you think KAMC Investigates can help with, don't hesitate to call the tip line: 748-2288. You can also email investigative reporter Nick Ochsner at firstname.lastname@example.org.