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Local News

March 3, 2013

Police charge 7-year-old with battery

Mother says autistic son was provoked into hitting his teacher.

LOGANSPORT — Police charged a 7-year-old with battery Wednesday after he punched a teacher in the nose.

The kindergarten student at Franklin Elementary School with a history of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism and psychosis was suspended from school after the incident.

“We had a teacher that was struck in the nose by a student,” said Franklin principal Hayley LaDow. “A police report was filed. That police report has been turned over by the police to the prosecuting attorney and that prosecuting attorney is the one that determines whether charges will be filed.”

Brandi Velasquez, the child’s mother, said a meeting Friday with administrators “didn’t get much accomplished.”

“We have to wait for the case conference,” said Velasquez, which is scheduled for March 13. Until then, she said, her son will remain at home.

“They offered to do homebound services, but he would do schoolwork for two hours a week,” Velasquez said. “Are you kidding me? Two hours?”

“I told them he’s not returning back to Franklin,” she added.

She also plans to pull another child out of the school.

“It’s not OK he hit somebody,” emphasized Velasquez.

But she questioned why the school filed a report against the boy, leading to the battery charge.

LaDow referred to policies in place at Franklin that are followed with regards to all students.

The boy had been diagnosed with autism at 2 years old by an Indianapolis neurologist, said Velasquez. He functions at the level of a 4-year-old, she said. “When he does something, he doesn’t realize it’s wrong.”

At school, she added, he does not have an autism diagnosis for academic purposes — something she’s tried multiple times to change.

“I’ve gotten denied four times for the testing,” said Velasquez.

She and an advocate requested testing again recently and it’s under way, she said. It’s scheduled to be finished by the case conference this month.

School administrators declined to comment specifically on the student, citing federal student privacy laws.

However, Superintendent Michele Starkey said the school’s goal is “to keep kids in school and educated.”

“Believe me, the last thing we want to do is suspend them,” she said.

If a student becomes unruly in the classroom, school administrators typically follow regular discipline rules, but look for a deeper reason triggering a student’s misbehavior, Starkey said.

Velasquez said her son has an autism disorder, ADHD and obsessional defiant disorder. He’s also audio-schizophrenic, she said — “he doesn’t see things. He has audio-schizophrenia, so he hears things.” He receives counseling regularly from Four County Counseling Center, she said.

A letter from Harsha Behavioral Center, where the child was admitted for a total of 23 days in January and February, certifies that he was admitted for increased aggression, poor safety awareness and psychosis, and assigned diagnoses of ADHD and autistic disorder.

The letter, provided by Velasquez, strongly recommended the child be educated in a classroom with few peers and under one-to-one supervision.

It stated the child can’t be successful if he’s in an over-stimulating environment for long periods of time and had the best results with one-to-one support throughout the day.

“He’s just thrown into a regular kindergarten class right now,” said Velasquez. She said she has requested and been denied one-on-one instruction for her son.

The boy has escaped from school grounds before, she said, and at other times has gotten aggressive. The school has a special code for him, she said, “Code Bulldog.” However, she added that Wednesday was the first time he’s hit a staff member.

School officials declined to comment on the boy’s behavior, again citing federal privacy laws.

“I’m bound by law not to give out confidential information,” LaDow said.

The problem Wednesday, said Velasquez, started when staffers deviated from the boy’s care plan.

“When he got upset they were to leave him alone and not go near him,” said Velasquez. “They did not follow the procedure that was put in place.”

Instead, a teacher took the child’s arm to pull him up from the floor, where he was on his back and kicking.

He “doesn’t like to be touched,” Velasquez said. A teacher “provoked him and then [the boy] punched her and now [he] has battery charges.”

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151.

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