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.

Reports of abuse involving Sharon Turbiak go back as far as nine years ago. Why hadn't anything been brought to the attention of the powers that be sooner? Easy. According to some, it had been. More than once. But the parents were paid off and intimidated into silence. Things were swept under the rug, in order to avoid scandal. Turbiak was allowed to keep teaching, her record seemingly clean.

But while it was kept quiet, it apparently didn't stop.This past school year, in a classroom of 12 students ranging from ages 3-5 with varying degrees of cognitive and physical special needs, the unthinkable was still occurring

The first documented reports of mistreatment came from Webster's program specialist for the special education preschool class. The principal was informed that the specialist had witnessed Turbiak being harsh to the students, yelling loudly in their faces, and generally not using the best practices with them. In the days following, four more staff members came forward with their own concerns. They stated that Turbiak was grabbing students by the chins roughly, yelling in their faces, picking them up from the floor by one arm. They went on to say that Turbiak would push students' shoulders when placing them in time out, letting the children with mobility issues fall rather than helping them into chairs or down on to the floor, force feeding them and slapping them on the hands. The principal handed everything over to the school's personnel department who called Turbiak in for a meeting. After denying allegations, Turbiak was sent back to her classroom, to those 12 children who depended on her so thoroughly, with little more than a slap on the wrist. A written note that essentially boiled down to, "try to do better."

In March of this year, Turbiak was once again reported by a staff member. This time for grabbing a student roughly by the top of the head and jerking it back. Another trip to the personnel department for Turbiak. Another slap on the wrist. Another chance to continue tormenting the truly defenseless she was in charge of.

March wasn't even given a chance to bow out before yet another report surfaced from Turbiak's classroom. This time one of her two paraprofessionals came forward, stating that she witnessed the other parapro scooping up a student, a three year old little boy with Down Syndrome named Cayden, and spanking him. This time something was done, despite the accused's denials of wrongdoing. The parapro in question was removed from the classroom, only to be reassigned to work with older children.

In April, two more staff members came forward with their own reports of Turbiak. They accused her of not working well with them or the rest of the staff, that they are uncomfortable with how she treats the children in her care, that she grabs the kids and yells at them and uses arm restraints on one in particular. Again, Turbiak denies everything, including witnessing her paraprofessional spank Cayden. This time she doesn't return to the classroom until after Spring Break. And return she does, no doubt smug in her belief that she is safe from repercussions. After all, her victims can't speak for themselves. They are entirely dependent on her. As if to prove this, she continues to rule over her class with fear and intimidation, now taking care to extend it to her remaining parapro. It's not until the end of that month that Turbiak is finally removed from the classroom entirely.

Between her removal and the beginning of May, 11 people are interviewed by the Administration. More allegations arise. They tell of her leaving the classroom for extended periods of time with the parapros left in charge, leaving students in extended time outs and/or forcefully moving them there, intentionally setting students up for failure then laughing at the student when they do fail. Letting students with mobility issues fall to the floor, pulling students up by their arms or allowing them to fall by letting go of their hands, using trays and wheelchairs as restraints. Turbiak, of course, denies everything. She claims there was no inappropriate treatment that went on in her classroom. I think anyone will agree, the allegations weren't that she was treating those 12 little boys and girls "inappropriately." The allegations brought against her detail torment, bullying, belittlement, and abuse that is criminal. Those reports weave 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.  

And the parents of these children? The parents of all those little ones who were yelled at, grabbed, spanked, slapped, restrained, secluded, force fed, bullied and belittled? Those in charge didn't see fit to immediately inform them. Not of the concerns, the accusations, the Administration's investigation or them calling in the police department to conduct their own. Nothing. In some cases, weeks passed before the parents were notified.

Against all odds, it gets worse. The local police concluded their investigation with a request for 10 warrants, which the State Attorney denied based on "insufficient evidence." The state won't be stepping in to charge Turbiak or her parapro, leaving the devastated parents to fend for themselves and their children. To scrape together money between bills, doctor visits, therapies and mortgages in order to fund lawyers who will help fight for the children abused. The children who may be different, but no less deserving of justice. In layman's terms? The victims couldn't speak up for themselves, therefore, what happened to them does not matter to the state. 

With the district's success over the years of covering up prior abuse allegations, one has to wonder how far their reach actually stretches. 

See Morehometownlife.com, hometownlife.com (2)clickondetroit.com
Videos addressing the BOEMeagan Davison speaking about abuse from 9 Years Ago Terri Roeder, whose son 3 year old son was spanked, A Father's Promise to his Daughter, Lauren Gohl, whose son's head was grabbed & jerked back
Time line of events Superintendent Leipa released: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3
Full quote from post title"You failed these kids every bit as much as the teacher and the parapro handing out the abuse," - Loyd Romick. (YouTube video addressing Board of Education)

If you or anyone you know has a child affected by Sharon Turbiak or her paraprofessional, Nancy's, particular brand of terrorizing teaching methods, please contact one of the parents involved or the school investigator, Mark Schultz. 


  1. It's not fair what these children had to go through. I love you all and promise you I will be fighting for cameras until they are installed. HUGS. Tara H

  2. This utterly ridiculous that this was tolerated for so long and nothing was done about getting rid of this woman. She is clearly incapable of being with children and people all together. I am ashamed of the school board that allowed her to stay on after so many reports of her misconduct, abuse, and belittling of these poor children whom were unable to fight back and stand up for themselves. This school board should be recalled and a new one should be established. One with more compassion and understanding than those that are in office at the present. Not to mention that Child Protective Services did nothing, nor the Police Department of Livonia. I am totally ashamed of all these groups who stood by and allowed this to happen for so long.

  3. Nine years ago, that is a completely false statement. There are no other reports of abuse going back nine years ago. The only reports are the ones made this past school year. If you are going to make a post such as this you need to check the facts. It is irresponsible to scare parents who have been in that room in the past nine years. My daughter was in that class. Shame on you for scaring people with false information. Makes you wonder what other false information is in your post. There are no other reports of abuse going back nine years.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Catholic Mom:
      I had a response previous but pulled back because of something I put in there that I shouldn't have.

      I wrote a letter both to our school district and to Webster. It was sent 9 years ago. Our district has it on file. I believe Webster lost it.

  4. I suggest you watch the attached videos, Catholic Mom. There was indeed reports of abuse dating back that far. The very first video is from the mother who dealt with it.

    Thank you for your concern about our material and fact checking. We gathered our information from numerous sources and are confident that what's presented here is accurate according to these sources.

  5. I saw the videos as soon as I heard the reports. The mom that is making these statements was there when my daughter was in the class. She made no reports. If there was abuse nine years ago, why would you leave my daughter or any child in that room? Why would not say something? She is silent for nine years! I am pretty angry right now that as a mother you are now standing up but where we're you nine years ago?

    There are no reports anywhere going back nine years. None! No school, police, or DCFS.

    As I understand, you are saying you have sources other then this mother? You have a written document to substantiate this post? If not it is irresponsible to present something as fact when indeed it is just an opinion. It is wrong to cause distress to parents by presenting information that may include their child as fact.

    If what say is true and you have sources that ensure you are printing the facts then please share. I have already utilized consul but you have opened a concern for me that is freaking me out at the moment. And you are telling me by your assurance that you have facts that I need to seek.

    1. Catholic Mom: And this is why I reported it.
      This is why I DID go to BOTH my district and Webster.
      They DID know.
      They swept it under the rug.

      If you would like to read my letter, let me know and we can set that up.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Catholic Mom, I can help you get in touch with the parents that were involved if you haven't spoken to them already.

    Our sources are listed underneath the post. We also spoke with parents and family members that were involved, so the information here is taken from the news, Superintendent Leipa's released statements, and those parents accounts. As far as what happened when your daughter was in her class, no, there is nothing documented on paper. It was said that the school would never pursue it and went so far as to cover it up and they tried to do the same with everything that happened last year. This is from the parents that were involved.

    We honestly are not out to scare anyone. We're not trying to run a smear campaign or cause distress. We've tried to create a place here where these kids can have their stories told, their side of it. We're not unbiased. We're here to help, how we can, the kids and families by giving them a place for their voices to be heard.

    As a parent now, and not speaking as someone who posts these stories or runs this site? I'm sorry. Not for posting it, but for the feelings it caused you. I understand how something like this can shake your faith and how it can make you look at your child and wonder if something was done to them and you don't know because maybe they can't tell you. And I understand the anger and the helplessness and the fear. The first post on our site was by my best friend. When I say "we" I am referring to myself & her. We're the ones who run Phoenix's Voice. We're no strangers to any of those feelings.

    Like I said, if you'd like, I can help put you in touch with the other parents if you haven't already spoke with them. They also stated that Mark Schultz is another one to get in contact with, as he's conducting the entire investigation. They would all be able to answer any questions you have beyond what we've posted here.