By Nancy Thorner –
It is often said is that a cover-up is worse than the deed itself. Especially egregious is when the cover-up takes place in a public school system for the purpose of keeping negative information from citizens that would otherwise tarnish and possibly subject its behavior to the scrutiny of law enforcement.
An incident involving an assault of a Highland Park District 112 elementary student took place at a Special Needs Elementary School located in Northbrook on May 27, 2014. North Shore Academy Elementary is a therapeutic elementary school where a number of schools send children who are in need of special attention that their own school districts can’t provide. Highland Park’s District 112 is a participant. At the time six NSSD112 children attended this therapeutic elementary school from H.P. The assaulted child was one of the children. He had attended the same school from 1st grade and was a 5th grade student at the time.
Near the end of the day on May 27, 2014, a teacher assistant became frustrated with the subject and with force laid hands on him. Upon returning home from school, the subject’s mother saw that her child’s neck was red and was told by the child about the aggravated assault that had taken place.
The mother immediately, on the same day, called school officials at North Shore Academy Elementary to report the assistant teacher’s assault on her child; however, the school officials had no knowledge of the incident, and, as required by law, no certified teachers were present or near the classroom at the time of the assault. Neither did the teacher assistant tell anyone about the incident. The mother was informed that proper school and district policy and procedures would be pursued.
What followed was that school officials requested the family not go to the police, maintaining that the school’s policy and procedures were adequate to conduct an investigation. Upon completion of the investigation, administrators assured the family that the teacher assistant had been placed on leave and later on that he had been disciplinary fired for not following protocol. Because of the action taken, the family trusted that the school had dealt appropriately with the matter by following its policy and procedural investigation. Of note is that shock was expressed at the time by administrators regarding the behavior of the teacher assistant. He was considered “a nice guy.”
In April, May and June of this year, the mother, greatly concerned about the placement of her special needs child into a public special education class room in HP District 112, filed a due process of disagreement on placement and education. Her filing was based on a breakdown of school trust perceived by the entire subject’s family. District 112 was seemingly seeking to implement a public school program to save the district money by not paying to send the subject to a special therapeutic middle school for the 2015-2016 school year.
The child’s family was in agreement over how it viewed the situation. A school trust breakdown existed, which elicited the need to look into how school officials had handled the assault investigation. What was ascertained is that school administrators were untruthful in telling the family that all established policy and procedures had been followed by both the school and district. Further research revealed that no reports of the incident had been submitted to the police or the DCFS, which district policy and Illinois law mandates.
The North Shore Academy Elementary (NSA-E), North Suburban Special Education District (NSSED), and District 112 are now claiming that the assistant teacher hadn’t been fired as the mother was told a year earlier, but instead tendered his resignation. In so doing the assistant teacher’s Illinois state board of education teaching license remained free of any noted disciplinary infractions. His teaching license to this day still remains clear of any derogatory remarks.
According to public record, on July 29th, 2015, the NSSED teacher assistant at North Shore Academy Elementary therapeutic day school in Northbrook, Illinois, was arrested, after admitting his guilt, by the Northbrook Police Department and charged with battery pursuant to the cover-up of the classroom assault occurring on May 27th, 2014, during school hours of a District 112 student. It was concluded that administrators and school personnel failed the Illinois mandated laws of policy and procedure to call and report the abuse of a student to local police and DCFS during their own “investigation”. In this case administrators were protecting their own instead of a student with special needs.
It is shameful that NSSD112 wants to save money by trying to cut corners instead of meeting the educational needs of ALL students in District 112. As District 112 has decided it no longer wants to fund NSSED (North Suburban Special Education District), the cost to District 112 is $60,000 per child to attend.
Discrimination should not be taking place on the backs of those students who are needy both emotionally and mentally and physically handicapped in contrast to those who are at the top of their class in intellect and ability. Also, the assault of a disabled child should be treated with the respect and honesty it deserves, as the education of every child matters, whatever their potential may be.
It was only after the family became involved that the DCFS (Department of Children Family Services) was notified and became involved. District and school employees routinely call DCFS (Department of children family services) to report abuse of children in a school situation. While some of the calls may be unwarranted. as well as intrusive, the incident that took place warranted a call to DCFS. It involved a school employee who intentionally assaulted a student with disabilities associated with autism, as well as serious health conditions of epilepsy and asthma. Yet administrators turned a blind eye, failing to placing a “good faith” mandated reporter call (all administrators are mandated reporters) to evade public attention. The family does not want this to happen to any other student, special needs or not , and appreciates all the support shown and given during this unfortunate time.
Incidents of cover-ups are frequent in all walks of life. School administrators will continue to hide undesirable happening from the public which might damage them in the public’s eye, unless concerned citizens take on the role of becoming citizen reporters. Knowing that the public isn’t in a state of comatose and that actions are being scrutinized, will hopefully result in justice being served and in administrators who are forthright initially so a cover-up isn’t necessary.