Thursday, November 15, 2012

"What happens in preschool, stays in preschool."

Back in July, we posted about tyrant teacher, Sharon Turbiak and her terroristic teaching methods in her classroom of 12 special needs 3-5 year olds. If you haven't read that post, or the news articles linked at the bottom, please take a moment to do so.

Earlier this week, Mark Schultz, the administrator of Employee Relations and Public Safety for Livonia Public Schools, who conducted the investigation for Webster Elementary, released the internal report. The details contained within it are shocking, nauseating, and heartbreaking. Back in July, when we first talked about Turbiak and those sweet little boys and girls in her care, we stated that for her to say there was no "inappropriate" behavior in her classroom, by her hands, was accurate. Because the allegations brought against her detail torment, bullying, belittlement, and abuse that is criminal.  We said that the reports weaved a story of a sadistic woman who used her position as a special needs teacher to turn her classroom into an ongoing lesson of fear and tyranny.

We barely skimmed the surface.

The internal report is like something out of a dystopian novel and Turbiak is depicted as the monstrous dictator, her aid, Nancy Respondek, helping spread the terror, so many of her fellow staff members, even as far as the administration, her spineless enablers. They used these children, these innocent, special, different, though not less, children, as their shields, placing them in between themselves and one woman, who should not have had the power that was given to her. The report is long, and each page is more horrifying than the last. Slapping, secluding, pushing, shoving, shaking, dropping, force feeding, restraining, man-handling, encouraging her aides to dole out physical punishment, and emotional and verbal abuse. Over and over again, reports of Turbiak, a woman who chose her profession and was not forced into it, abusing her students, and very few staff members standing up to her, some even appearing to cover it up.

And, still, at the center of this story is not this monster, nor is it the cowards, enablers, and condoners. At the center of all this is the children and their families. The kids who depended on this woman to nurture, support, and teach them. Who relied on the other staff members to help them achieve their goals and the school system as a whole to protect them while in their care. It's about the families who love these kids, whose whole worlds, entire existences, revolve around these children, who have spent their time, money, energy, passion, patience,  everything they have to give to raise these special little human beings and trusted in a system that was supposed to help them, only for that trust to be horrible, unforgivably, inexcusably, betrayed in the worst ways imaginable.

To quote a supporter of these children and their families, who is not directly involved, but heartbroken and enraged over what has happened to them, what Turbiak did and the ones who condoned her actions with their silence and/or cover ups:

Fellow supporters, let's unite to help these families. Everyone involved in knowing about this teacher abusing these children should have been behind bars already. Let's start by telling everyone we know to make one phone call a day to the head of Wayne County in child abuse and neglect division and demand answers and not give up until everyone named in that report are all behind bars. 
We agree wholeheartedly, Mr. M. Silence contributed to the abuse of these sweet little boys and girls. Let's break it. Let's yell from the rooftops we. do. not. agree. We are angry. Upset. Heartbroken. We are devastated for these children and their families. And we want people held accountable. We don't allow hostile animals to roam the streets. We shouldn't let dangerous, cruel, vicious humans who attack the truly defenseless, or those who witness those attacks and do little or nothing at all, walk away from it all with no real consequences for their despicable actions.

See MoreInternal Investigation Report by Mark SchultzHometown Life, Our Original Post on the story.
Phone Numbers of Interest: DHS Protective Service - (313) 396-0300, Wayne County Child Abuse Unit -  (313) 224-5857
Title Quote Spoken by Sharon Turbiak to fellow staff members.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Learning to Begin Again.

When you've seen the broken bits of something, how do you ever look upon it again and see the whole?
I sat in my home all summer beneath a too bright sun, and saw only black clouds. I hovered beside a window I just wanted to cover as my son played behind me. I stood guard. I was terrified. I was feral.
This summer we talked about what happened to my son to death, and when it finally died, it stayed. Right there beside me, what was left of that afternoon kept me company, withering and crumbling, but there all the same.
I was a ghost others spoke at. They railed for my son, and it soothed, but there he was behind me playing, and I was breaking, and I was standing at the mouth of our cave making promises to the wind I could not feel past my closed windows.
There were choices and decisions on the other side of our walls, and I could not make them. I could only stand beside this dying thing. I could only watch over my son and daughter, glancing back at the sound of their laughter.
June became July. And then August.
I watched others prepare their kids for the big, emotional step that was kindergarten. They bought supplies and school clothes and it was a celebration. I opened my mouth but everything that came were words about terrible teachers and violence and why, how, and no.  My son's name became a reminder of everything that could go wrong. Everything that did go wrong.
When my son was placed in a new school with an autism program I went and I met his teacher. We spoke and we shared and she showed me this classroom and how all of these pieces were made for kids like mine. We spoke about the TEACCH method and PECS and the magic and struggles of life on the spectrum. I saw my son's name on a basket that was just for him, and there it was again on a desk that was just for him. Phoenix.
The baby who grew in my belly. The boy with the boisterous laugh but shy smile. The boy who grew so fast but still cuddled up close at night. The boy who didn't speak until he was almost four years-old. And yes, the boy who was hurt by his teacher.

So badly I wanted to keep and I wanted to hide, but it was him that came to me with sweet smiles watching the school bus. Listening out for other children. He yearned to move past me, to open the curtains and let the light back inside. My son is love and energy and he has wings that were dying to spread. He studied this new classroom, and he studied this new teacher and he gave her a shy smile and peaked past her to the computers and he knew this was now school. He held my hand on the way out and back home there was no more room for dead, withered things. There was dust to clean and supplies to buy.
There was breathing.
And then there was first day jitters, and like other moms we took pictures and we smiled and I worried and hoped and when that school bus came, that magic bus that came for him, he smiled and he raced. He climbed into his seat and I spoke to the aide as she buckled him in, and he waved at his poor, wretched mother and blew her a kiss. The brake lights were blurry as I watched him leave, learning again how to let go. How to smile as he flies past me.

My son has autism. My son was hurt by his teacher. My son is teaching me to be brave, and he is teaching me to laugh as we chase the world down. As we take and give and share and run until we lose our breath.
And because of him, I went back inside and I opened the windows to let in some light.
We're holding onto these scars, and we've learned and we will continue to roar and rage. But we're also moving forward and not hovering or hiding. We're batting away the black clouds and growing and learning new things as we declare our place amongst you. This is what it means to go to school in a neurotypical world. To swim upstream. This baby duck of mine is facing the mainstream like the breath-stealing bird that he is. The Phoenix.

His name is Phoenix and he is the boy soaring past me.

If it's happening to Typical kids...

"I wanted to share a story with this group, just in case anyone from Pennsylvania is reading. My sister lives in Cochranville, and her children attend the Octorara Area schools. None of them are special needs. My nieces and nephews, 2 in particular, have had some devastating cases there with the school doing nothing. The first instance, my nephew was touched by a student who was the son of one of t
he school workers, one of the administrators if memory serves me right. The school not only did nothing, but refused to even speak to my sister about what had happened to her son. The principal told her, and I quote, "Once your kids enter those doors [to the school], you lose your rights to them. They're ours now." My youngest niece just began kindergarten this year. On her first day of school, she was yelled at my a teacher's aid and scolded terribly, just for crying because she missed her mommy. My niece was terrified, and was more terrified when she found out her mommy would be going to the school to speak to the teacher. She begged her not to go, but my sister is a head strong advocate for her children. She got into a screaming match with the teacher, and the teacher said that my niece was a liar. My niece has yet to go to school willingly since then. It's been a few days, almost a week, and my sister still has to force my niece to go to school through tears and heartache. 
This kind of treatment and attitude is happening in classrooms that are not special needs, but these kids have the ability to come home and tell their parents what is going on. I URGE YOU, if you are in that area and have children going to a school in that district, please, PLEASE do a surprise check in. Keep a close eye out. It's a rather small school district, smack dab in the middle of Amish country. You would hardly think anything like this would happen there."

As shared by  The Ninja Herself to Cameras in Special Needs Classrooms' Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"You failed these kids."

Abuse is wrong and horrific on every level, but there is something a little more appalling about it when a special needs child is involved. When others in authority go to great lengths to protect the accused? Revolting.

Such is the case with Webster Elementary in Livonia, Michigan.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Autism made them lie."

I have an 8 year old son named Corey. He was born 5 weeks early. At the age of 2 1/2 he was diagnosed with Moderate Autism.

 On May 10th he got off the bus saying, "teacher mean." I said, "really ahh." Then about an hour later we met up with his classmate Austin (age 12/Autism). Austin mentioned that the teachers aide was really mean to Corey that day. I'm like, "really what happened?" He said, "She hit Corey on arm then grabbed him hard and yanked his arm to face to her, as she screamed in his face, 'STOP CRYING NOW!'" He was crying because he left his 50 cents for his icecream. :( I went up to school and talked to principal. She did not show she believed Corey and Austin. She said she will investigate and get back to me. I got a phone call from them and they said that the aide said it never happened. Their teacher said she was not there, Corey was crying when he came back to her, but she believes nothing happened. I asked if they had cameras. They said No. They said they believed it was their Autism that made them make this up. My son does not lie and I think they are covering up. That is why I started the FB Page Cameras In Special Needs Classrooms. I am getting stories every day about a child abused in school in these special needs classes. And they cant go home to tell their parents.

-Tara Heidinger

Tara is one of the admins of the Facebook group: Cameras in special needs classrooms and has been a tremendous help in connecting us with stories like hers and Phoenix's as we're starting up. The stories and pictures that are gathered on there are heart wrenching and show the desperate need for cameras to act as a voice for all the little warriors without one. Please go like their page and add to the discussion. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Mother's Point of View.

This has taken me a month to write down, and even now I don’t know if I want to be here. There are two people screaming in my head. There’s a beast of a mother that is waving matches and screeching curses and wanting to take everyone down with me. Then there’s this other girl. The one that, to be honest, embarrasses me a bit, but for the sake of honesty I’ll talk about her too. She’s scared and she wants to hide and pretend everything away. She’s desperate for this thing gnawing inside of her to stop taking so much. She’s sad, and she scared and I don’t know how to make it better for either of them.
One month ago I got a call from my son’s school. I was told that allegations had been made that he’d been hurt. By his teacher.