The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

April 7, 2010

Mom claims 29th Street teacher pushed son, then her

ACS says complaint resolved

ANDERSON, Ind. — Jennifer Cox’s third-grade son Adrian Duarte was sullen when he came home from school on Monday. He told her that a teacher pushed him against a locker at school, so the mother scheduled a meeting the next day with the teacher and the principal at 29th Street Elementary School.

“To prove his point, Mr. (Brian) Ellis shoved me, to prove that it didn’t hurt,” Cox wrote in an e-mail sent to The Herald Bulletin, school board members and ACS administrators.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Cox said that Anderson Community Schools officials have concluded there was no wrongdoing, a claim that ACS officials confirmed.

“Nobody seems to care that a teacher has done this to my child,” Cox said. “The teacher took his hand and shoved me in the shoulder and said ‘this is all I did to him’ ... This man is over six feet tall and over 200 pounds. My son is 71 pounds. I’m sure it hurt my son when he got pushed.”

Ellis did not return telephone messages seeking comment on Wednesday.

Cox said the incident involving Adrian started when students were returning to class from lunch, and a classmate began taunting Adrian and calling him names. She said Adrian, a special-needs student, then began to walk on the heels of the child in front of him, drawing the alleged physical contact from the teacher.

Adrian has been diagnosed with a disruptive disorder and as bipolar, Cox said. But she said he has thrived at school this year with the help of his regular teacher, who she said was not in class on Monday. “He’s almost on the honor roll. He hasn’t gotten sent to the office except maybe one time,” she said.

But Cox kept Adrian at home on Wednesday. “He doesn’t want to go back to school.”

“I’m not saying my son’s an angel, but I don’t think he deserves a teacher hurting him,” she said. She said the teacher “had numerous options available to him” to discipline the child without physical contact.

ACS officials deny that the incident constituted abuse. “There’s no evidence to support that,” said Beth Clark, manager of schools, programs and personnel for ACS.

Clark and  29th Street Elementary principal Becky Bolaños cast doubt on Cox’s version, though neither denied that contact took place between the teacher and the student, and later, the teacher and the parent.

Bolaños said that because of confidentiality issues, she could not discuss specific details of the incident. She filed a report with Clark and ACS Superintendent Felix Chow, in line with school district protocol, Clark said.

“I felt it was resolved and I really believe it’s been resolved,” Bolaños said. “I  don’t think there was any particular wrongdoing.”

“I do believe her child is safe in our school and I do believe Mr. Ellis acted responsibly and I do believe Mrs. Cox is not happy” with the outcome of her investigation, Bolaños said. She said she disagrees with some of the word choices Cox made in describing the events, though she said she could not be specific.

Clark said that in Cox’s meeting with Ellis and Bolaños, the teacher touched the parent in some way as he “made a demonstration” of his contact with Adrian.

“The words that the parent  used are not the same as the teacher used,” in describing the teacher’s physical contact with Adrian, Clark said. Asked which words were different in describing the incident, she said, “I think that’s a little too specific.” She cited ACS policy of protecting confidentiality.

Clark said a copy of the summary of the investigation was being mailed to Cox.

“It’s still what I would call open if the parent chooses not to agree with the decision the principal has made,” Clark said. “I would anticipate there may be further review.”

ACS policy says teachers “have the authority to take such means as may be necessary to control the disorderly conduct of students.” Clark said that can include physical contact with students.

“The difference between allowable and best practice can sometimes be a very wide continuum,” she said.

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250, dave.stafford@heraldbulletin.com

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