Mom says video shows GRPS teacher assaulted child

Mom of 6-year-old with autism found bruises on daughter's arm

Dickinson Academy child injured
Left: A still from cellphone video that may show a teacher injuring a 6-year-old at Dickinson Academy in Grand Rapids. Right: Bruises on the child's arm. (May 24, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids mom who said her 6-year-old daughter came home from school with bruises on her arm wants answers from the school district.

“I want justice for my daughter and what happened to her and whatever I have to do to get that, I will do that for her,” Shaunte Paul-Oliver said.

Her daughter Alona has autism.

“She is now focusing more so like a 3- to 4-year-old even though she is 6,” Paul-Oliver explained.

The 25-year-old mother of five believes officials at Dickinson Academy on Grand Rapids’ southeast side did not follow the law and did not keep Alona safe. She also said this was not the first time it had happened.

She said Alona came home in March with a laceration. She said she called the school and was told that an accident happened when a teacher was trying to restrain Alona.

“Four or five days later, the teacher called me and apologized,” Paul-Oliver said.

She said she was told it would not happen again. She left it at that.

Then, last week, she noticed something.

“I was about to give her a bath and when I took her shirt off, I noticed she cringed away from me and then she ran to the corner and she started saying, ‘No, no, no, no,’” Paul-Oliver said. “She lifted her arm up and I seen it instantly.”

There were bruises on her daughter’s upper arm.

Paul-Oliver said she again went to the principal, who took pictures of the bruises.

“Here It is, once again,  and I am having to come the school, show proof, talk to people, ask questions, be told I’m going to get a call back,” Paul-Oliver said. “The doctor told me yesterday that these are adult marks.”

She said a school employee sent her video late Wednesday afternoon of what she believes is the incident that injured her daughter. In the about two-minute video, an adult is trying to get Alona off playground equipment, pulling on her in various ways as the child screams in protest and resists.

Paul-Oliver said the video proves her case and she is devastated by what she saw.

Grand Rapids Public Schools confirmed the video is of the Dickinson playground, but would not comment beyond that.

Paul-Oliver said the school failed to follow procedures.

“I should have been informed immediately when this happened to my daughter by a note, phone call, a meeting, something,” she said. “If this was a parent that had done this to a child, they would have called CPS, they would have gotten the police involved, charges would have been brought against the parents.”

She called police, who confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 that an investigation was underway.

GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt said as soon as the district was alerted of the situation, it followed its procedures.

“I don’t think we did anything out of the ordinary,” Helmholt said. “We’re going to find out the facts, we’re going to find out what happened, when it happened, whether it was reported properly or not.”

And if the accusations are true?

“There will be corrective action taken including and up to termination of employment,” Helmholt promised. “The staff member was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. We’re going to follow our process and protocol. Student safety is our top priority.”

He said he understands why the mom is upset.

“I’m a parent, too. If my child came home like that I’d have a similar reaction,” he said.

But he added that things may not be as they seem at first blush.

“In no instance should a student be getting injured, but there are extenuating circumstances,” he said.

The mom said she plans to sue and wants to see changes.

“I believe they should have cameras in the rooms with children with disabilities to protect the student and teacher from such events,” Paul-Oliver said.