Special-needs kids’ parents allege more abuse; EVSC says no reports have been substantiated


Special-needs kids’ parents allege more abuse; EVSC says no reports have been substantiated

EVANSVILLE — A group of parents who say a teacher repeatedly screamed at and mocked a class of special-needs students came to Monday night’s Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. school board meeting with expanded allegations and protests that nothing is being done.

And EVSC responded with assurances that student safety is of paramount importance and steps have been taken to enhance it — but also that all related Department of Child Services (DCS) investigations have found allegations to be “unsubstantiated.”

“At the end of the day, we do take these allegations seriously,” Superintendent David Smith said afterward. “I also want to make certain that all the allegations are factual.

After the meeting, Smith added in remarks that if EVSC believes a teacher has done something inappropriate with students, “we do take care of those teachers by removing them — and I go after their licenses.”

A group of parents have said a teacher shouted at and “made fun of” non-verbal children in a classroom at Culver Family Learning Center, an early-education institution on the city’s South Side.

EVSC administration has said records of its investigation into the matter are exempt from disclosure per IC 5-14-3-4. The statute says “the factual basis for a disciplinary action in which final action has been taken and that resulted in the employee being suspended, demoted, or discharged” can be disclosed.

Pat Shoulders, EVSC’s attorney, said the matter “has been dealt with internally” — but not with any of those outcomes.

“Indiana law makes clear that personnel files are exempt from disclosure other than final action taken against an employee in the case of demotion, suspension or discharge,” Shoulders said after Monday’s school board meeting.

“None of those three things happened, so ergo, I can’t discuss discipline other than that.”

Shoulders suggested, however, that the allegations were not ignored or covered up.

“I think you can rest assured that if the person is still working here, that the appropriate discipline has been administered and those kinds of actions won’t happen again,” he said.

Parents of Culver students continue to seek answers after a series of recordings captured a female teacher yelling at young nonverbal children multiple times throughout a school day last fall.

Victoria Ford, one of the protesting parents, subsequently started a private Facebook page where parents organize protests and offer each other support.

Ford, who said her daughter was in the classroom when the recordings took place, has said the yelling negatively affected her behavior at home. She’s since been able to get her child placed in a different classroom — something some other parents have done as well — but said changing school corporations is out of the question given the cost and the scarcity of developmental preschool programs in the area.

Monday night, Ford claimed there is much more going on at EVSC.

“Since this issue has happened in which my daughter was exposed to abuse and trauma that we still deal with the effects of, 16 people have filled out a form that I’ve created explaining their abuse situation,” she said. “Some are verbal, emotional, and some are physical.

“Reports from seven different schools have been reported, and at least 11 different EVSC staff members in some cases had multiple adults listed as performing the abuse spanning four years all have been reported and absolutely nothing is being done or has been done.”

There are a dozen or so others who are “too scared to come forward,” Ford said.

Tara Gore laid out sensational allegations of abuse.

“I’m here to speak about my problem with (EVSC) admin and the many witnesses of abuse who’ve come forward and keep being ignored,” Gore said.

“Ten people telling me that a teacher in (one school’s) toddler room has for the last two years been verbally and physically abusing 2- and 3-year olds, all reported to admin. Parents are not made aware that they are being slapped, jerked up by the arm, shaken, slammed down on their bottoms, hands squeezed until they cry, yelled at in their faces, cream rubbed on their genitals in a way that staff considers predatory.”

But Smith noted that parents and others have a responsibility to report allegations of abuse to DCS, and DCS investigates them. EVSC does internal investigations, he said.

Ongoing extra training for employees and an added administrator at Culver are among the steps EVSC has taken in response to parent concerns, Smith said.

“My heart goes out to any parent who feels as though their child has been subjected to something less than our standard, and we will do our best to investigate,” Smith told reporters after the meeting. “I will tell you, when we have investigated things, that we have not been able to substantiate claims that have been made.

“That doesn’t mean that we won’t investigate every claim, because we will.”

As did Shoulders, Smith said certain EVSC employee personnel records can’t be disclosed. The school superintendent said he knows people get frustrated about that.

“I am limited in what I can share publicly,” he said. “But that limitation doesn’t mean I’m limited in what actions we can take.”

POSTED BY THE CITY-COUNTY OBSERVER without editing or bias.