Report of Suspected Abuse of Special Needs Student Launches Investigation

Report of Suspected Abuse of Special Needs Student Launches Investigation

Posted By The Maher Law Firm || 13-Feb-2015

A school employee's report has led to the arrest of an assistant teacher at an Osceola County elementary school for his alleged abuse of a special needs student.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that a school employee reported the alleged abuse after witnessing an incident occur in the cafeteria of Flora Ridge Elementary School on February 5.

According to Channel 13 News, the employee told police that the 26-year-old assistant teacher told the special needs student, a 6-year-old girl with autism, to pick up a tray she had dropped on the cafeteria floor.

After the girl refused and threw herself on the floor, the assistant teacher allegedly picked her up and started to shake her "violently," the Sentinel reports. The child did not appear to suffer physical injury, Channel 13 reports.

Kissimmee Police Department officers responded to the school and interviewed the school employee who reported the incident. According to the Sentinel, the assistant teacher did not cooperate with investigators.

The police department found probable cause to arrest the assistant teacher on a charge of child abuse, which is a felony offense in Florida. According to the Sentinel, the arrest was based on the assistant teacher allegedly grabbing and shaking the girl "repeatedly in an aggressive manner that could reasonably be expected to result in physical injury to the child."

Channel 13 News reports that the assistant teacher worked with the Osceola County school district since 2008. A public information officer for the Kissimmee Police Department told Channel 13 News that investigators would look into whether there had been past incidents at the school.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will investigate the matter, according to Channel 13 News.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse is Important

The abuse of children with disabilities in schools is a serious issue in Florida and across the country.

It is believed that one in three children in the U.S. receiving special educational services due to a disability are subjected to some form of mistreatment, including neglect physical, according to The Arc. In fact, a special needs child is roughly 3.4 times more likely to be abused than a child without a disability, The Arc reports.

As this Osceola County incident shows, reporting suspected child abuse is crucial for a special needs student's immediate protection and for a thorough investigation to be performed.

In this instance, a witness saw the alleged abuse. In other situations, however, abuse may be suspected due to signs of mistreatment such as bruises, cuts or fractures.

Florida law actually mandates that any person who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that child abuse or neglect is taking place by "a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child's welfare" to immediately report the knowledge or suspicion to the Florida Abuse Hotline. The call center will then forward the report to the local sheriff's office.

The failure to report child abuse and neglect can lead to criminal penalties under some circumstances and can even cause an educational institution to be fined.

If you are the parent of a special needs student that you believe has been harmed physically or emotional by abuse or neglect at a school, you should contact an attorney in order to protect your legal rights. At The Maher Law Firm, we provide free and confidential consultations to help parents in these situations.

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