Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Today Show Interview With Special Needs Student Who Was Abused By Teachers Has Nation In Uproar

The Miami Trace Local School District received over 100 phone calls following Tuesday morning's NBC Today show segment featuring a 14-year-old special needs student who was verbally and emotionally abused by a middle school teacher and teacher's aide.

"There has been an outcry of response," Miami Trace Superintendent Dan Roberts said Tuesday afternoon from the OSBA state conference in Columbus. "I have not been able to take the calls because I've been out of the office. If I had known the story was going to break (Tuesday), I would have stayed at the office."

As of Tuesday evening Roberts had not been able to see the Today show segment, however, he said he plans on watching it.

Locally and nationally, many have reacted with outrage over this story that was first reported in the Oct. 26 edition of the Record-Herald.

On April 28, the child's father alerted Miami Trace to the verbal abuse of the girl and following an investigation by the district, an audio tape of the abuse was presented to district officials by Children's Services. This audio tape has resulted in the discipline of the Miami Trace Middle School teacher, Christie Wilt, the forced resignation of the teacher's aide, Kelly Chaffins, and a $300,000 settlement with the child's parents.

The special needs middle school student who was the target of the abuse, identified as Cheyanne, and her father, Brian, appeared on Today with their attorneys to tell their story.

On the audio tapes, Chaffins and Wilt are heard saying disturbing things to the child.

"Cheyanne, are you kidding me? Are you that damn dumb? You are that dumb?" Chaffins is heard saying in one instance. "Oh my God. You are such a liar. You told me you don't know. It's no wonder you don't have friends. No wonder nobody likes you because you lie, cheat."

Chaffins is also heard making fun of the girl's appearance.

"Cheyanne, don't you want to do something to get rid of that belly? Well evidently you don't because you don't do anything at home. You sit at home and watch TV. All night. All weekend."

In another instance, Wilt told Cheyanne that she failed a test before even looking at it.

"You know what? Just keep it," Wilt said. "You failed it. I know it. I don't need your test to grade. You failed it."

Chaffins also made Cheyanne walk on a treadmill as a punishment for getting a question wrong, according to Cheyanne's father. The school district claims that the treadmill is there to "refocus" students and not to punish them. Chaffins told Cheyanne that she broke the treadmill and should run in place.

Cheyanne's father told the Today show that he repeatedly contacted the school and was consistently rebuffed. The parents reportedly went to the school's principal, Jeff Conroy, and he spoke to Wilt and Chaffins. The parents then went to Roberts with the allegations.

"(That was) the first time we ever spoke with the man," Brian said, "and he told us we were bordering on slander and harassment so let it go and he would guarantee me the best education possible."

Roberts said the district acted immediately after receiving verifiable proof that the abuse had occurred.

"After hearing the tapes, we acted immediately and gave the teacher's aide a copy of the tape to share with her attorney," said Roberts. "She resigned immediately."

The student was immediately removed from the classroom and transferred to another.

As for Wilt, there was originally uncertainty as to whether she participated in the emotional abuse.

"We immediately contacted the Ohio Department of Education's Office of Professional Conduct and submitted a full report that their office received on May 5," said Roberts. "It took the State Department of Education five full months to render a decision."

The decision was to suspend Wilt's teaching license for a year, however, that punishment will not occur if Wilt can complete a number of stipulations, including anti-bullying and child abuse training, this school year.

Cheyanne's parents said they want Wilt to be fired and never be able to teach again. "She doesn't need to be around kids at all," he said in the Today show interview. "She participated in it, she was right there."

Roberts said Tuesday that Wilt has not taught a single day in the classroom this year because she has been on family medical leave.

"We are abiding by the decision of the Ohio Department of Education," said Roberts. "(Wilt) will abide by all of the guidelines set forth and if she does not, she will be fired."

As well as the ODE, the complaint was also taken to the Fayette County Sheriff's Office and presented to the Fayette County Prosecutor's Office.

It was determined that there was no basis for criminal charges and there was no physical abuse.

Roberts said he wishes he could tell the complete story from the school district's standpoint.

"We asked the parents to sign a waiver so we could tell our side of the story but they would not do that based on their legal counsel," said Roberts. "Between the two interviews that I've done on Channel 10 and the Today show, it was about 95 minutes worth of interview. Maybe 10

or 11 seconds of my interviews were actually broadcast."

Roberts said once again Tuesday that he is extremely sorry for what happened to the child.

"The persons involved fell short of our mission. We're sincerely sorry for that and we will work very hard to never let that happen again. We need to provide proper training and restate our expectations of how we treat children so that this never happens again."
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1 comment:

DisgustedCincyParent said...

Dan Roberts is parrt of the problem. He is the idiot that told the parenst they were "borderline harrassing/slandering" the parents! The whole school administration is CLUELESS!!!!