Parents of boy with autism want answers after video shows school employee hitting son
The parents of a non-verbal boy with autism are demanding answers after surveillance video appeared to show a Dayton Public Schools (DPS) employee striking their son, causing him to fall to the ground.
“He wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Taneshia Lindsay, mother of 3-year-old Braylen Tootle, said tearfully during a press conference on Wednesday. “You could have bear-hugged him. You could have let another teacher do it. I don’t know what was going on in that man’s head, but my son did not deserve that.”
The family said they received a video of the incident on Monday after sending multiple requests for a copy of the video to Dayton Public Schools. Michael Wright, a lawyer for the family, said they have not yet seen the entire video of the incident, which took place on Aug. 21, and have not been informed whether the employee was credentialed to work with children with special needs.
Investigators have obtained a copy of the video in which the boy can be seen running down the hallway, followed by the DPS employee.
In the 17-second video, the employee eventually catches up to Braylen, hitting him in the head and causing him to fall to the ground. The employee proceeds to grab Braylen by his legs and carries him back upside down before another employee runs toward him. It is unclear what led to the incident and what occurred after.
“We want answers. We’re demanding answers and we want them immediately,” Wright said during the press conference.
The status of the employee, who has not been named, was not clear. Lindsey said the worker was suspended pending an investigation, but the school did not respond to a request for comment to confirm that or discuss the incident.
“They shouldn’t have sent him home pending an investigation. He should have left that school in handcuffs. And that’s why a lot of other parents are mad because, why hasn’t he been arrested?” Lindsay said.
She added, “That is clearly assault on that video. That man should not have left that school, he should not be in society around other people’s kids. We don’t know what this man is doing. He should have been locked up.”
The Dayton Police Department told reporters on Thursday that the case has been presented to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.
On Wednesday, David Lawrence, the interim superintendent at DPS, said in a statement posted to the school system’s website in response to the incident that the district in response would be taking additional measures “to ensure all 2,300 employees are properly trained and qualified for their positions in an effort to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.”
“Fitness for duty will be measured in terms of job qualification, training, and social-emotional health and well-being,” Lawrence said in the online statement, adding that he plans to meet with concerned parents at Rosa Parks Early Learning Center early next week to discuss the incident.
“The way Dayton Public Schools handled this situation was absolutely shameful. They lie to this family. They kept them in the dark. They were not being transparent, and they have to be held accountable,” Wright said.
He added, “For the Dayton Police Department, why has there not been an arrest? For the prosecutor’s office, why has there not been any formal charges against this teacher’s aide, paraprofessional? So we are requesting an arrest. We are requesting charges, and we are requesting that the Dayton public school system be transparent with this family.”
The family said they first learned of the incident that occurred on Aug. 21 upon picking up their son from school. They said the school mentioned that an incident had happened but were vague and failed to provide additional details. The family said they were later contacted by Child Protective Services, who were investigating the incident, and the family was told to request video of the incident as it was “way worse than what the school put on paper.”
Doctors have been treating Braylen since the incident and continue to provide medical care, a representative for the family told reporters. The family said they are waiting to hear if there are any long-term effects from this incident.
“This is a very disturbing video and our hearts are with this child and his family. Montgomery County Children Services cannot share any detail on involvement, as all Children Services case files are confidential under Ohio law,” Deb Decker, Director of Montgomery County Communications and Public Affairs, told reporters in a statement.
Robert Tootle, the boy’s father, said during the press conference that he already lived in fear something could happen to his son.
“You say something to a kid that’s non-verbal, you don’t get a response, so we wouldn’t know,” Tootle said. “We wouldn’t have a clue what was going on with our kid.”
“Our kids need help, society needs to be educated on autism, and they need to be trained to deal with these kids,” Lindsay said.