Updated 02/22/2012 11:40 PM
NY1 Exclusive: Mother Says Her Autistic Son Was Abused Twice In A Manhattan School
A teacher's aide is back in the classroom, even though an investigation found she had physically abused a nine-year-old student with autism. It also turns out an earlier allegation of abuse involving the same child was never even investigated. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following exclusive report.
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When nine-year-old Adam Epstein came home from P.S. 94 in the East Village last summer with bruises and welts on his back, his mother, Frances Sepulveda, says she immediately went to the principal.
"Not only did I show them the bruises, I told them that I wanted it remedied immediately. I was crying, I was upset. My son cannot speak. He is a non-verbal autistic boy, so he couldn't tell me what happened," said Sepulveda.
Sepulveda says Principal Ronnie Shuster promised her an investigation and immediately moved Adam to a different class.
But in December, an assistant principal called to say there had been another allegation. A substitute teacher reported that a teacher's aide in his new class hit Adam on the head.
Then a few weeks later, the principal called to say there had been a third incident: a parent reported seeing the same teacher's aide grab Adam by the arm and slam him into a chair.
"I said, 'I'm going to the police precinct,'" said Sepulveda.
The police told her the principal refused to speak with them. The Department of Education would not tell NY1 why.
It is further unclear because DOE officials say the school decided the most recent allegation was true after conducting its own investigation.
The aide, Elidia Jordan, was suspended for 10 days without pay and required to attend training. She was then switched to another school, one that also serves severely disabled students.
"It's disturbing, that she'll be working with other children with special needs that can't speak and can't defend themselves," said Sepulveda.
Even more troubling, Sepulveda recently learned the school never investigated who abused Adam last summer.
The DOE confirmed the principal transferred Adam to a different class without reporting the allegations, as is required.
The family moved to a different neighborhood in the city this week, so Adam will be going to a new school. But they say they still want answers.
With a string of teachers being arrested for forcible touching incidents at city public schools, many want to know what the Department of Education is doing to prevent further abuse cases.
City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott spoke about the issue on Wednesday's "Inside City Hall."
"We're going to review all substantiated cases dating back to 2000 to make sure we are doing the right thing and anyone who has either inappropriately touched a child or any type of sexual substantiated cases, just making sure that employee is no longer with our children and ideally out of the system," said Walcott.
The chancellor also said in at least one of the recent cases, the employee's records were not transferred when they switched jobs within the school system.
Walcott said DOE officials are looking into why that happened, and they are also working to put safeguards against abuse in place.