Teacher of students with disabilities accused of abusing one of her students - KSHB.com

Teacher of students with disabilities accused of abusing one of her students - KSHB.com

Here is part of the story.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A teacher trusted with students who have
disabilities is now accused of physically and emotionally abusing one of
her students.

The Greene County Prosecutor's Office in
Springfield, Mo., charged Janet Williams, 65, with assault and
endangering the welfare of a child. Williams was a teacher in the school
system since August in 2000.

Now, the parents of Austin, the 8-year-old child who was allegedly abused, want justice for their son.

“We feel betrayed. We feel like that there should've been more to make sure he was safe," said Austin’s father.

Austin has autism, ADHD and epilepsy. He has been in the Greene
Valley School, which is part of the Missouri Schools for the Severely
Disabled, for several years.

It wasn’t until November 2014 that Austin’s father found out what was allegedly happening to his son in school.

were a couple of times that he didn't want to get on the bus. He fought
us. He didn't want to get dressed and we didn't know. We honestly
didn't know," he said.

Austin’s father received an anonymous
letter in November 2014 that said Austin’s special education teacher was
physically and verbally abusing him.

"When a child like him is
being abused in some shape or form, he can't come and tell you and to me
that makes it worse," said Austin’s father.

Police documents
obtained by 41 Action News show it was reported to the principal that
Austin’s teacher, Williams, tried to kick him when he was under a table
and allegedly called him an idiot. One witness said the teacher slapped
him on the back of the head and called him another inappropriate name.

to the probable cause statement submitted to the Greene County
Prosecutor’s Office, Williams admitted to hitting Austin at least five
times. She said she didn’t think she hurt him and said that he cried
“empty tears.”

"When I first got that police report and read
through it, I couldn't even read the whole thing. I put it away came
back the next day took me a day to read it," said Austin’s father.
“That's my son. You know my job is to protect him and when somebody
takes it out of my hands what am I to do?"

A DESE spokesperson sent 41 Action News the following statement:

“At Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled (MSSD) and the
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, our first priority is
the safety and security of our children. MSSD policies state that abuses
of any kind are not permitted in our schools. Employees are required to
report any act of emotional or physical abuse. Employees are trained on
the MSSD Zero Tolerance Policy against Abuse every year and required to
acknowledge their understanding of that policy annually. Staff is to
respond quickly to abuse and take swift action to suspend potential
abusers until allegations are fully investigated. “
Difficulties with child abuse cases with children with severe disabilities

family hired attorney Samara Klein and filed a civil lawsuit against
the school, the teacher and the Missouri Board of Education.

"I was shocked. It was an investigation when you read it that was just straight out abuse," said Klein.

has taken on special education cases for the last 20 years. Klein says
the difficulty with many child abuse cases with children with severe
disabilities is proving that the abuse occurred.

“These issues of
abuse and the Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled have come up
over and over again. You have these children who are in many cases
nonverbal like this little boy he can't talk. They can't tell their
story," she said.

In 2011, the Missouri Schools for the Severely
Disabled settled out of court with families in Mapaville, Mo., who
alleged their children were neglected and suffered from emotional and
physical abuse. Some of the families strapped tape recorders to their
children’s wheelchairs to find out what was happening in their
children’s classrooms.

"It's up to other people in the school to speak out,” said Klein.

and other attorneys we spoke with said it can take a long time for
these cases to move through the court system. In Austin’s case, the
Greene County Prosecutor’s Office received the probable cause form the
Springfield Police Department in December 2014 and charges against the
teacher were only filed this week.

Bringing action

County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson said after 41 Action News
contacted his officer, he realized his office was moving too slow on the

"I'll tell you frankly. It's taken too long to make a
decision on this case, and that's why I've reassigned it,” Patterson
said. “The assistant prosecutor had other duties, had other trials that
were going on, and it's a misdemeanor charge.”

Patterson said he’s
been prosecuting crimes against children for more than a decade and
says his office take these cases seriously.

"Our office has been
committed to child abuse prosecutions in fact we have a persons’ unit
that is committed to sex crimes against children and domestic violence
cases where we put a lot of effort into training those prosecutors and
ensuring that we're responding aggressively as possible to these cases."

While Austin’s family wants justice, they hope their case will keep other families on guard.

are probably a lot of parents out there that don't know that stuff like
this happens because their child can't come and tell them what's going


Jenna Hanchard can be reached at jenna.hanchard@kshb.com.

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