A special education teacher in Chicago is accused of regularly hitting, threatening and cursing at her elementary school students with special needs in a new lawsuit filed by 10 parents.
The John Whistler Elementary School teacher commonly told her students “the longer you cry, the longer I will hit you,” according to a complaint filed March 15.
She’s accused of hitting the children with her hands, wooden rulers and other “wood devices” when the students struggled finishing assignments or tasks.
When one parent confronted the teacher and school principal about how students would often leave the classroom with marks on their bodies and faces, they were told the children are “clumsy” and “tend to fall,” according to the complaint.
The parents are accusing school officials of condoning and supporting corporal punishment, which isn’t allowed in Chicago schools. They’re suing the school, Chicago Public Schools, its Board of Education, and the teacher and principal, who were both not identified in the complaint.
Now, the accusations against the teacher are being investigated by the school’s Office of Student Protections and Title IX, according to a letter sent to parents and families on Feb. 15 and provided to McClatchy News by Chicago Public Schools.
The teacher has been removed from her position, the letter said. The investigation will determine whether she is to return.
“Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is committed to the safety and well-being of our students and takes seriously all allegations of employee misconduct,” Chicago Public Schools said in a statement. “CPS investigates and addresses all complaints in accordance with District policies and procedures to foster safe and secure learning environments in all schools.”
Students endured ‘physical and emotional corporal punishment’
The students who the teacher is accused of abusing had a range of mental and/or physical disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder, and “impaired verbal and nonverbal communication abilities,” the complaint says.
The “physical and emotional corporal punishment” they endured lasted until February 2023, when the teacher was removed from her position, according to the complaint.
In the classroom, the teacher is accused of commonly using “offensive” language such as telling students to “get your (expletive) up here” and to shut the (expletive) up,” the complaint says.
Other staff members inside the classroom were “harassed and threatened” if they reported the abuse, the complaint says.
‘Something terribly wrong was happening at Whistler Elementary’
Pearl King, one of the parents and lawsuit plaintiffs, said she took her 5-year-old daughter to the hospital in October after noticing apparent injuries, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Since then, she wets the bed, is “afraid of making simple mistakes” and becomes upset when she sees the school bus, the newspaper reported.
“I feel discouraged because I feel like I have let my daughter down,” King said in a media statement, according to the Chicago Sun Times. “It was my job to protect her and see that she is in a safe environment. And I now believe that something terribly wrong was happening at Whistler Elementary and that my daughter has been abused in that school.”
Another parent and plaintiff, Julie Hagan, began noticing her 6-year-old son started cursing when he came home from school and “using expressions that he didn’t learn at home,” according to NBC Chicago.
Hagan said his behavior changed in other ways, too, according to the outlet. When he began attending the elementary school, he was no longer eating lunch and would cry when arriving at school, Hagan said.
King, Hagan and the other parents are suing on several counts, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and retention, and battery, the lawsuit shows.