May 15th, 2012
05:01 PM ET

Parents of special needs students say school district covered up abuse

By Julie Peterson, CNN

(CNN) Slammed into lockers, isolated in darkened schoolrooms, vulgar language by a teacher – it was just another day at school for special needs student Alex Williams.

Recently released court documents say Alex, who has cerebral palsy, was routinely abused by teacher Melanie Pickens at Atlanta-area Hopewell Middle   School between 2006-2007. Despite extensive abuse of Alex and other students that was substantiated by a Fulton County School district investigation in 2007, no charges have been filed against teacher Melanie Pickens or then-Principal Frances Boyd. None of Pickens’ special needs students had the verbal abilities to tell anyone they were being physically and emotionally hurt.

You might expect that documented child abuse, in a public school, with many reports by teachers, school nurses, and staff, would automatically result in criminal charges -at least against the teacher actually doing the abusing.

Parents of Melanie Pickens’ former students say: Think again.

The way the Williams family learned of their son’s mistreatment was circuitous and indirect, according to Lisa and Doug Williams of Atlanta suburb Alpharetta. The parents of another student, Jake Marshall, informed the Williams, according to court documents released earlier this year. That’s because the abuse of student Jake Marshall was the first to be uncovered. Now 19, Jake lives with Angelman Syndrome and is non-verbal.

Back in 2004, special needs teacher Melanie Pickens taught a class of middle school students, at Hopewell Middle School, in the Atlanta suburb of Milton. She taught in an area of the school called G Hall, which is the section of the school used solely for special needs students.

In May 2007, another special needs teacher, Susan Tallant, says she found Jake isolated in a room, alone and strapped in a chair. She says it was obvious he’d been there a long time, because he was covered in his feces. “He had defecated and actually gotten it everywhere. All over him, all over the chair he was sitting in, all over the floor,” Tallant said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Julie Peterson.

Tallant’s colleagues discouraged her from reporting what she’d seen. They told me "I could say something to the higher-ups but nothing would ever get done,” Tallant says.

Tallant wrote-up the Jake Marshall incident. Her written report forced a formal investigation commissioned by the Fulton County School District. “I was just doing my job,” Tallant told CNN.

Outside investigation firm BDI was hired by the Fulton County School District immediately following the May incident. Recently released court documents reported BDI’s conclusions. BDI found that many teachers and school nurses made verbal reports about Pickens’ treatment of students but nothing had been done. Judge Kimberly Schroer’s decision in the Williams case states that Pickens’ abuse “was known and reported by the G Hall staff, but that Boyd refused to act on their reports.”

A principal is required to report allegations of child abuse under Georgia law.

Watch the rest of the story:

Court documents say the investigation uncovered that from 2004-2007, teacher Pickens had been doing many violent things to her students: slamming one boy into lockers face-first nearly every day, screaming at the children, pressing her breasts in students’ faces, hitting them, and calling the students vulgarities. In one incident, the report said Pickens even sprayed a girl with Lysol after the student passed gas.

Both teacher Pickens and Principal Boyd lost their Georgia teaching certifications, says the Professional Standards Commission’s John Grant. Pickens was gone immediately from the school, in the summer of 2007, and Boyd was taken out of her principal position and put in a school job that allowed her to use up her paid and unpaid leave, retiring with her pension in 2008. In surrendering her certification, Boyd said she did not violate the Code of Ethics in any way.

Boyd now is an adjunct teacher of education at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, CNN has learned.

Pickens has denied the abuse, in court documents, and Boyd has stated that she actually reported the abuse to the Fulton County School District’s Personnel department and was told not to fire Pickens. Neither Pickens nor Boyd has applied to have their teaching certifications renewed.

Neither Pickens nor Boyd nor their lawyers would accept our invitation to provide comment for this story, citing pending litigation.

In the course of the district-commissioned investigation, Jake Marshall’s parents were interviewed in 2007- they say this was the first clue to them that something was amiss. The school system still hadn’t told them anything, the parents say. The Marshalls then began a two-year process of trying to obtain documents of what happened to their son. This eventually resulted in the Marshalls filing a complaint against the Fulton County School District. The complaint was resolved, and agreement details are confidential.

Judy Marshall, mother of Jake, called Lisa Williams, mother of Alex, to let her know what she learned from the 2007 district investigation. Williams learned that her son Alex, who has cerebral palsy, was hurt by Pickens nearly every day. This explained changes in his behavior- like refusing to use the toilet. The Williams family couldn’t explain at the time, back in the 2006-07 school year when Alex was in Pickens class.

In fact Alex’s father, a pediatrician, looked hard for a physical reason for Alex’s regression. Only later did he recognize his son’s symptoms as post-traumatic stress disorder.

In February, an administrative court confirmed that the Fulton County School District knew about Pickens' abuse but never told parents. Court documents say Alex Williams was denied the “free, appropriate public education” he is due by law.

The Fulton County School District was ordered to pay for 5 years of special instruction and therapies for now 19-year-old Alex Williams to help him regain lost ground.

Pickens and Boyd were long gone when current Fulton County Superintendent Robert Avossa moved into the job in June 2011. Avossa says there are new procedures in place to keep abuse allegations from going unnoticed. “We decided to develop a more robust reporting process so that we ensure that there’s no single point of failure,” says Avossa. “So you report it to the principal, you report it to HR, you report it to the state.” He adds that in the instance of principal Frances Boyd, “People reported it to the principal allegedly, and that person didn’t act on it the way that they needed to. So we’re broadening that scope.”

With the February court decision making the substantiated abuse public, parents, whose children were students in Pickens’ class at various times between 2004-07, are piecing together what happened to their kids. They say the Fulton County School District has never communicated with any of them about the abuse substantiated in the 2007 report. The parents say the only way they know about how their kids were mistreated is by reading the report supplied as revealed in the February Williams decision. No wonder some parents are angry.

Judy Marshall, mother of Jake: “It just infuriates me that this has happened to all these kids that were all non-verbal, couldn’t go home and say: Mom, Dad, I don’t want to go and this is why.”

Shayne Lee, mother of Garrett: “You can’t imagine how gut-wrenching it is, to know what’s happened. And you kept sending them back, day after day, sending them back.”

Each parent we spoke with says they now understand why their children regressed at the time they were in Pickens’ class.

Lisa Williams, mother of Alex: “They all regressed in potty-training, they all started isolating themselves in their rooms.”

Doug Williams, the pediatrician and Alex’s father, says “I thought he had something medically going on. And we kept searching for it. And unfortunately we found it was the abuse and the PTSD that was really causing all his regression and his symptoms.”

Shayne Lee, mother of Garrett: "He was just crying, crying, just miserable, and I just thought, I thought maybe the medication was not effective."

Significant questions remain.

Why hasn’t Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s office charged anyone involved in the abuse? CNN made repeated attempts to obtain comments from the DA’s office, but we were told theFultonCountyschool police were still collecting information to be presented to the DA’s office.

Did then-principal Frances Boyd report the abuse to Personnel and a school social worker, as she stated in a recent court document? And if she was in fact told “not” to fire Pickens at that time, why would this be so?

Why do teachers and staff at Hopewell say they were intimidated by Principal Boyd? The court determined Boyd created an “air of intimidation” that made staff afraid they’d lose their jobs if they reported Pickens.

So as Fulton County schools have a new superintendent, Hopewell Middle School has a new principal, and with new reporting procedures in place, many parents say they want charges filed. District Attorney Paul Howard’s office and Fulton County school police tell CNN the school police continue to collect background – eight years after the substantiated abuse began. Meantime, parents say their children will be making up for lost ground for a very long time.

“It may take a lifetime to get these kids back to where they were,” says Judy Marshall.

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Filed under: Behavior • Bullying • Special needs • Teachers • video
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Kenny's

    I represent school systems in special Ed matters. However, each case I deal with, I remember the children. I have a little boy who has no special needs and pray that he will understand the special needs of the children in his public schools and treat them with the respect, compassion, and equality that they all deserve. To the limited amount of posters who believe these children should not be in the public schools, you may want to lobby your congressman., because they all agree that these children deserve a chance. That is why they, of course, passed a statute giving them this chance decades ago.

    May 26, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  2. JJ

    Why would the county take in such incredibly ill children who need nursing? This type of care seems absolutlely ridiculous to ask of an "educator"?? I thought school was for learning??

    Good ole Fulton Co..... Guess it sounded like a good idea to them! I mean who else will take care of these children? Their parents? I guess not?

    May 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  3. Martha

    Thanks, CNN, for your report on the abuse of our children in Fulton County, GA. This is a story that should never be forgotten.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  4. Systemic Advocate

    "America's Forgotten Children" Restraint & Seclusion Awareness

    May 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  5. jino's mom

    Go to now if you haven't done your survey yet! Then send it to everyone who should have the opportunity to voice their experience and knowledge.

    May 18, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  6. jino's mom

    my son suffered seclusion and restraint abuse for 2 school years. the district will not take responsibility to protect and school police should not be in jurisdictional control of school property related abuse!

    Go to now if you haven't done your survey yet! Then send it to everyone who should have the opportunity to voice their experience and knowledge.

    May 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  7. Dizzyd

    @Gracie's mommy – you go, girl!
    @Carrie – amazing how they can get away with it. Disgusting!
    @Jimmy James – well, that explains you then! Honestly, I was wondering when the trolls would crawl out from under their rock to spew the verbal vomit that their pea-brains fart out. And they call these kids retarded!

    May 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  8. Maine Mom for Progress

    This story represents such huge hole in the system. Who's protecting our children? I'm so sorry to all the parents and their children here who have been traumatized by an adult at school entrusted to do best by their children. Something has to change. Why is this acceptable? The system is not working. Keeping ALL Students Safe Act is so important to get our children the federal protection they deserve. Change is possible.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  9. sarachaya

    A society is known by how it treats those least able. I guess that makes Fulton County the poster child for being a society which needs to end.

    Mistreating a person who has no means of protection should be treated as a criminal act. Why are these people still out of jail free???
    thank you CNN for broadcasting this story.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • JJ

      What do you do for a living?

      May 22, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  10. Jimmy James

    If people would stop abusing drugs during pregnancies, there would be far fewer of these r e t a r d s to push our hard-working teachers over their human limits.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Dawn

      You my friend are a complete ASS I never abused drugs and I have a child with special needs if these teachers do not want to work with people with special needs maybe they should change their degrees to something for simple minded people like YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Cristina

      Unfortunately, your mother chose not to abort you.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
      • JJ


        May 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Kbeck

      Seriously you don't know anything about the parents and what their children require. Obviously you don't have children and are a disgusting person. GET A LIFE

      May 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
      • Jeff Helton

        He's right why should a teacher given a ridiculous, impossible to fulfill responsibility? How would you have done?

        May 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • JoeProfet

      Jimmy, you made your point well in your demented comments. Fortunately, the "retards" you refer t have a much higher intelligence than you have. So, unlike you they will still excel in life!

      May 17, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • SophieCat

      Is that your excuse? Your mother abused drugs during her pregnancy and now you're an IDIOT, and we as a society are doomed to suffer as you inflict your ignorance upon us?

      May 17, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Victoria

      That explains your brain damage Mr.James.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Concerned

      Your ignorance is truly frightening. First of all, most cases of cerebral palsy are not caused by drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy. It is a diagnosis that is very misunderstood, and it has been noted that CP can happen in chidren born to mothers who do not use drugs or alcohol. The etiology is very unclear however, it is linked to hypoxia of the developing cerebrum for unclear reasons, some of which can include toxins such as lead, or hypoxia during the birthing process, and is more common in premature births as well.

      Educate yourself first before you post.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
      • JJ

        So they are good candidates for public school?

        May 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Michael Goldfield

      That's it; blame the victims – the children and the parents! Clearly the teacher is a sadist and a sociopath. What personal issues prevent you from seeing the truth. Would you abuse any child this way?

      May 17, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
      • JJ

        clearly? so ur who?

        May 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Elaine

      You are one sick individual to be defending these monsters.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Chris

      If it was legal to beat a dumdass to Death you would be.

      May 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • PF

      Are you serious? Did your mother do drugs when she gave birth to you? If so, that explains your existence. If not, then explain your mental state?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

    As a teacher of special needs students, I am appalled at the treatment of these students.These are our most vulnerable citizens and it is our responsibility to be an advocate for them, no matter what it may cost you. That is why you become a special education teacher. It is definitely not for the pay. You have more responsibility than the regular teacher for the same low pay. You do it because you love these particular children. I am really getting sick of these stories of teachers who mistreat these students because it makes it seem that all of us special needs teachers mistreat them and need to be watched. Most of have great love and regard for these students and work very hard to help them become independent and successful.
    I agree with these parents and criminal charges need to be brought before the statue of limitations runs out.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • SophieCat

      I agree SPED Teacher! I remember our "Special Ed" teacher when I was in elementary school, and hers was, indeed, a "labor of love". There were a number of children in our school district who suffered from cerebral palsy, profound developmental disabilities of all kinds. I went to a school in the Blue Ridge Mountains and there were a number of them. Even the town doctor's daughter was developmentally-delayed. They have since discovered that, a large number of birth defects and cancers took place in our town due to strip mining in the mountains above the town, and the chemicals used in the strip-mining seeped into the ground-water. Our little town was full of cancer and leukemias and things like that. Birth defects too. But Mrs. Crabtree – she had a special love for her "special" students, and she did her best to help them. They were never going to go to college, or raise a family, they would always be at home with their parents for as long as their parents lived, and then – hopefully! – there would be a sibling to help care for them.

      A society will be judged as "civil" by how they treat their youngest, their eldest, and their most-vulnerable citizens. If we permit the Melanie Pickens of the world to win, we ALL will love.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  12. Jenn

    Thanks very much, CNN, for your terrific story and shining the light on this horrible abuse. It was very informative. No child should have to endure what these children did at the hands of their teachers. It makes me cry.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  13. Kristin

    My child was in a regional, special ed program that was housed in a bldg that only had children with special needs. We were told that the staff all had the appropriate training. During his years there, they would call and notify me that he had to be put in a quiet area after an outburst (he has autism). During the Spring of 2011, I was called because he was accidentally injured. This "accident" was 2 broken bones in his left hand, an open would fracture that required emergency surgery and a broken bone in his right foot. I learned that this "quiet area" was a small, concrete room w/ a thick concrete door. The door had no knobs on the inside and had multiple dead bolt locks on the outside. The only way to see into the room was a small window at the top of the door. My child (who was 10 yrs at the time) was terrified and tried to get out. Since the staff were clearly not paying attention (best case scenerio) or (worse case) realized what they were doing, they slammed the concrete door on him. The physical wounds have healed....the emotional ones have not. I filed a police report (no charges) and Child Protective Services investigated (found that there was no abuse). If you were to read the report from Child Protective Services, you would not know that he has special needs, that this was a school designed for children who struggle with outbursts, you would not know that there were multiple broken bones or a required surgery and a hospitalization. This occured in the State of Virginia in the Hampton Roads area. We have hired an attorney and are addressing the assault in a civil case in the hopes that we can do something to stop this abuse. The Director of Special Ed in our city is aware of this and took no steps to protect the other children in the building. Since this happened, I have been absolutely stunned as I educated myself on this issue. Had my husband or I even had a seclusion room in our home, I feel certain we would have our children removed from our care. This same Regional Program has been highlighted in some recent news reports (WAVY 10, concerning other children who have been injured/abused at the hands of "educators." I commend CNN for doing its part to shine a light on this situation that happens all over our country. I simply do not understand why Congress has not done more to ensure SB 2020(Keeping All Students Safe Act) is immediately passed. This is a human rights issue we, as Americans, should INSIST that Congress immediately act to protect innocent children who, through no fault of their own, have a special need which causes them to need speical services. I encourage everyone to call your local School Board representative and put them on notice that abuse of children will not be tolerated!

    May 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • J

      I would love to know more about this program your child was in. My child was also placed in a program like that. I have read many stories about these settings. I bet the program was the psycho ed program or something like that. I recently read an article about a law firm that has pushed an investigation to be done into the program here in my state.

      May 16, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • stacydenham

      I am so sorry that this happened. I work at a school with students who have special needs. There are times that our students use cool down rooms that are concrete. Ours don't have doors. Our staff care very much about all of our students even when it's hard. There are good places where students learn.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  14. Carol

    Physical restraint, and seclusion was something that happened on a daily basis in my son's elementary school in an affluent neighborhood in MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND. It was in what they call an ED Cluster Program within a neighborhood elementary school. ED stands for "Emotionally Disabled" which is a broad spectrum of different things from OCD, ADHD, or in some cases, emotionally immature. The have a "behavior management" system similar to the penal system where children "earn" having their privileges revoke and spend full days in the "quiet room" (otherwise known as a storage closet, and are given the "opportunity" to write an essay about what they did wrong and what they should do to make better "choices." I have kept quiet for years because it took my threatening to expose the school staff with going public with what was going on there. I have kept quiet to protect my son's privacy. He is an adult now and working full time. It would still cause a major upset to talk to a reporter about this. I hope that someone with money, resources, power (or all three) can do something to protect innocent children from being abuse like this. I was told that this was done to "keep the children safe" ... what a pack of lies! The adults in charge were a bunch of bullies and they took pleasure in their power and control over the kids in that program. I hope they burn in hell!

    May 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Cathy

      Where in Montgomery County? We live there, too, and my son will never have verbal skills and is globally developmentally delayed. Thanks.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  15. Jonathan

    It is important that these cases be reported as public exposure protects children from this type of abuse and truly opens up the school house doors. This is an essential protection as it presents this type of behavior. I work with families who have children in this system and the indifference of the administration to their rights and needs and how they are treated if they speak up about their children is a serious issue. Their restriction of parent access and of the right to have independent professionals observe to help make recommendations is a serious a problem in Fulton County. We constantly seek ways to cooperatively agree on the plans and services only to be shut down capriciously. As a society we have learned that abuse occurs, and then reoccurs when it is allowed and tolerated, especially with locked doors and children who are not verbal.

    May 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  16. gale

    But if one of these parents went to the teacher and slammed her face against a wall or tied her to a chair all day where she soiled herself they would go to jail. These two women need jail time for hurting innocent people who cannot stand up for themselves. To all parents with special needs children I hope you get justice and I hope your children do not fall prey to people like these two. I teach special needs children in church and they are so fulfilling. I know several parents who simply pulled their kids out and homeschooled them because their children were being neglected. I know that isn't feasible for everyone because parents have to work, but if you can, take them out.

    May 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  17. Catherine McClure

    This does happen and happened to my own son when he was in kindergarten.His teacher would put him in a special wheelchair facing the wall, or in a covered house.When I found out, it was investigated and she was let go.However, she wasn't allowed to tewach, like this principal..of all places the Cof C!!I hope they find out and put her out on the streets where she belongs!!

    May 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  18. Just Sayn

    The parents of this child and all of the witnesses should go to the County Attorney and demand that they press charges against her on behalf of their kids... A private person can demand charges to be filed against another providing they have the proof of the actions... The DA is the person to charge... I would of been at City Hall immediately... He can then get the copies of the reports from the school to affix appropriate charges for the crimes against these children. Get on it, the DA, as the schools work for you, you have that right or I would be suing that school district big time for all the mental anguish I am sure has been laid upon this child and others... Be responsible parents and do not allow this to not follow this person so that they do again to other children... Today!!!!

    May 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Janice

      Just Sayn,
      You would think that is how things work but it doesn't happen that way. My son's police report states that his school, placed him in danger of positional asphyxia at least 6 times in a 5 day week and our states attorney refuses to press charges citing that they, the school, did not "intentionally harm him" when I filed child abuse charges. Then I went and tried to file 2nd degree assault charges and he still refused stating, "this case has already been investigated and closed". My son is nonverbal and has Angelman's Syndrome, a typically happy child; his "crime": he sat down and didn't want to walk into school! Never being aggressive.

      May 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  19. Kelly

    James, you really have no clue. Children and adults with disabilities can think, many of them are very intelligent and they do so well in normal school with normal kids. To say that they cannot think or should not be in a school with "normal" kids is ignorant, in my opinion. These teachers deserve to go to jail and the fact that one of them not only was able to continue to work in that school district and get all of her unpaid leave and vacation time, but then also got a job at another school, is completely disgusting. The fact that this school district has not even made contact with these parents, is inexcusable and I'm still not understanding why neither this teacher of this principal have been charged with any thing. They abused innocent children and all that can be said is that the school police are still looking into it? Do people like this take the time and expense to go to college and become teachers because they get that much perverse joy out of harming innocent children? I just don't understand why there are some many reports in the news about the people we trust to care for our children and provide them with an education, that are seriously harming and abusing our kids. They chose these professions, if they can't handle children or dislike children, why do they choose jobs where they work with large groups of children?

    May 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  20. Sharon Gudger

    As a taxpayer from this school district, I am horrified that my taxes pay for cover up of abuse to our most vulnerable citizens. Thank you CNN for this story. Thank you for not letting the cover up continue. Where is the district attorney of Fulton County? Why have charges not been filed against the abuser? Why has the investigative report not been addressed by the attorney general when it is filled with multiple eye witness accounts from the school district who testified that these children were abused? If abusers go free, school districts are allowed to keep abuse hidden, nothing will ever change.

    May 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • DAVE

      Then why are you not doing something about it. Just like mot people, they whine about something but DO NOTHING

      May 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  21. judy

    My daughter was in Special Ed in the local school. The teacher was the wife of the principal.
    She used to hit my daughter, pour her milk down the drain and not let her outside for recess. Who will beleive the handicapped kid?

    May 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  22. Cathy

    Francis Boyd, we have some serious character and integrity flaws here yet, she still managed to get new employment again. Ms. Boyd is listed as Staff on College of Charleston website, there is something seriously wrong, you want to talk flawed?

    May 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  23. Gregory Bajda

    Back when I was in elementary school, there was this "special ed" group of kids who mainly stayed within their own proper community. They seemed to be happy and performed in school plays as well. I still see one guy from that class around and he's doing great now. He's about to graduate high school. To think that there are teachers out there who consistenly abuses disabled children on a daily base startles me, I was close to tearing up. Kids in school deserve nothing but love and care from the teachers showing what life is like, especially the disabled. The people responsible need to be jailed for ruining an innocents person's life.

    May 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  24. jeff

    potato pototo did the people complaining about what we are supposed to call special needs kids not understand the article because of the way the author refered to the kids? more than likely just bored couch sitting critics with nothing else to do but correct other people. too much spare time! get a life. thats all i have to say about that.

    May 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  25. symoneb1

    I wouldnt have even called the cops until after I beat that teachers a$$..She played with fire and would eventually get burned by a parent..People dont realize when you hurt someones child its like a lioness with her cub..She will attack you!!!!

    May 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  26. Jersey Guy

    First there should be no Secret agreements for settelment. This provides cover for the offenders. All the records of the investigation should be released to the parents of all Children in the School and the public who pays for these miserable teachers and administrators. This is another good reason to get rid of Labor unions for Educators. The Unions provide even more protection for the abusers. The next is to get rid of the ancient rite of Tenure which allows these people to continue to work and get paid for substandard teaching. Once they are tenured they no longer need to do good work, just show up and that is just what many do. We need a Merit system just like the private sector has. The Late Steve Jobs in a face to face meeting with President Obama told him much the same if America is ever again going to be on top and produce good, well educated graduates. This whole thing is just one of many across this nation and it needs to be stopped now!

    May 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  27. tangela


    May 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

      AMEN!!! There is a special place in He!! for people that abuse children. especially the disabled! I am a mom of a special needs child. I had an experience where a Special Needs Aid Put her hands on my child and Shoved her. I reported it. Told the pricipal that if she back doored this and swept it under the carpet that It would be ten times worse. She tried to BS me a couple times and I wouldn't let it go. That woman was fired with in the next week. Never to work in that School again.
      I DON'T PLAY!! And neither should any other parent. I have a reputation now of being "THAT MOM" at the school.. And I am completely ok with that!!

      May 16, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  28. hypatia

    Sounds to me like that female needs to be treated to some of her own medicine.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  29. Kelsey

    Poor child:(.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  30. Carrie

    I worked in a self contained classroom with emotionally and physically handicapped children. The special ed teacher who ran the class had been there many years and until myself and another aide arrived, no one said a word. She stole their lunch money, their drink money, whatever snacks parents sent in she would divide and take the rest for herself. She would order more milk and juice than necessary and the rest she would take home. She put alcohol in small plastic containers that looked like they held salad dressing. She would disappear to her car for a nip or take a lunch break to go home and drop off the extra milk and juice. She would put one particular boy in a large cardboard box and make him stay there until he stopped yelling. Of course the longer he was in there, the more he got upset. He loved the computer and she would tell him he had computer time in the afternoon. He would be so excited and couldn't wait. She would punish him for anything and take away the computer. He was obviously devastated and she took so much pleasure in the punishment. The boy lived on a farm and she made him walked on four legs all the time. The aide and I banded together and reported the abuse to the principal who in turn reported it to his superiors. We were told by her that we ruined her Christmas because of the allegations leveled against her and consequently we were not asked back the following year. We were the bad guys I guess. The teacher remained and retired with a full pension. I was so ashamed of our school district and after reading this story realize not much has changed. These children have no voice and this has to stop.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  31. Mandy

    James, you missed your calling. You would be the perfect poster child for Planned Parenthood.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  32. CAF

    This article actually made me a little teary-eyed. To think of an able-bodied person, in a position of authority, mistreating these kids like that... it makes my heart hurt. These children may not be able to communicate as clearly, but they can think, and they can certainly feel. I hope these families are able to get some type of justice, and I hope that the responsible parties are punished accordingly.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  33. Tina

    James, I assume "the state" put you in a school with "normal" kids, and you obviously can't think.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  34. terry m tatro

    @James, I hope you do not teach children. No child should have the right of an education taken away from them. I have an autistic daughter whom goes to a regular school and she is learning by leaps and bounds,,,by teachers whom devote their life to helping the less fortunate children. James you should be adhamedm of your self

    May 16, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  35. Stephanie

    Thanks Jenn for pointing that out! I also couldn't finish reading the article because of the term "special needs". Children, students or people with disabilities is more apporpriate.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  36. Jess Butler

    Thanks to CNN for excellent reporting and to the parents for speaking up. It is horrible that the children were abused for years and paid the ultimate price. It is terrible that staff did this and the parents did not know until a breve teacher spike up. Over half if the states in U.S. do not require schools to inform parents if their child is subject to restraint our seclusion. Only 16 limit restraint to emergencies involving threats to physical safety. Only 12 limit seclusion similarly or ban it entirely. Congress should pass the Keeping All Students Safe Act. But most important, action should be taken in Georgia to correct what happened here.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  37. Denise Marshall

    Every student should be treated with respect and dignity at school – and every child given an equal opportunity to learn. There is now excuse for such abuse or cover up and any one who does so should be punished to the full extent of the law.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  38. James

    I'll never understand why the state has to put people who by accounts can't think, in a school system with normal kids.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • aes

      they can think. they can't speak. huge difference.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Cindy Buckler

      They can think, feel, learn, feel joy and fear. They should have the experience of being with "normal" kids, and the "normal" kids should be with them, it teaches "normal" children, tolerance, compassion, and possibly a career. I feel sorry for you. You are obviously afraid of these "special" kids.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Stephanie

      They have EVERY right to be educated. And so many studies show that peer interaction is beneficial to all students, even the "normal" ones.

      Please think about what you just said. That is a cold, callous, disgusting way to think about these children. CHILDREN.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Stephanie

      James, you obviously can't think or you wouldn't be the moron you obviously are and your school accepted you. No one should be denied an education because of a disability. Public schools should have everyone in a community-not just so-called "normal" people. In fact, schools should be making their disabled students every bit a part of the school community as they do all other children. Teachers who are abusers should be removed from their professions and whatever pension money they have acquired transferred to a 401 K type of account. They don't deserve to remain licensed or certified as teachers in the country, let alone their state.

      May 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Riptide80

      Wow... you can obviously speak, but not think. You are the taxpayers waste of money. I actually.... truly (which is out of character) feel bad for you and your ignorance. What a blind, clueless life you'll live.

      May 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • lt drebin

      By your account – you would not be in a school with "normal kids".

      May 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • ssb

      James, really? Why doesn't a child with a disability deserve to be in a classroom with "normal" kids? My son is in special ed. and has "normal" friends and guess what he is for all intents and purposes a normal teenager.He is even on the honor roll most of the year. He has a learning disability or a silent disabilty. To look at him you wouldn't know he's autistic. By the way, James what do you consider "normal"?

      May 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • ratbag

      Gee, let's hope you never have a traumatic brain injury, or disease like Alzheimer's that robs you of the power to 'think'. Instead of being maintained in your own home and community with dignity, you can be sent to a substandard nursing home and be abused there by people who believe that people who can't "think" don't matter and need to be hidden away. Keeping abuse hidden from sight only perpetuates it. Those kids presence in that school didn't cause their abuse, they weren't abused by "normal" students, but by a special educator who got off on abusing defenseless kids instead of helping them. Those kids lost skills, like being able to use the toilet, as a result of their mistreatment. That only makes them harder to care for. Yeah, they may not be headed to MIT, but being able to wash your self, use the toilet or fix a simple meal will make these kids' care less costly in the future.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  39. Jorge

    Not surprised this happened in Georgia, the school system is appalling in most counties here, many of the "teachers" have maturity/anger/social issues and should be in therapy or something. My daughter, a 3.7 GPA student, has had to ask a couple of her teachers to please be quiet during work sessions and tests, because the steady stream of trash-talk coming from them would not let her concentrate. In the district where I work (different from hers) several teachers, a safety officer and a principal were terminated from a middle school three years back for using an empty instructional unit as a motel room, they had an air mattress inside and had blanked out the windows. The multi-menage ended when one of them got knocked up and spilled the beans.

    May 16, 2012 at 7:37 am |
  40. Jenn

    The behavior of the teacher is absolutely deplorable.

    To the author, Julie Peterson, "special needs" teachers are actually called "education specialists". Students who have a disability can be referred to as students with disabilites or students in special education. The term special needs is a bit out dated becuase it is not very descriptive. Plus, all students have special needs, they are, after all just kids.

    Best wishes to the families of the abused students.

    May 16, 2012 at 1:58 am |