Atlanta educators under fire for alleged abuse

Caption
Raw video obtained by Channel 2's Tom Jones shows what school officials say is aggressive behavior by a teacher's aide

A day after alarming videotapes surfaced that appear to show paraprofessionals assaulting students, Atlanta Schools superintendent Erroll Davis said he is “profoundly apologetic,” about what allegedly happened in a classroom at Harper-Archer Middle School.

Davis would not say Wednesday how many students are in the affected classroom, nor the type of instruction they were getting. It has been widely reported that the children are part of the district’s special education program.

Davis said he has not personally communicated with all of the parents of affected children, but he intends to. Parents have his “commitment that people involved in situations like this will be dealt with quickly, and appropriately,” he said.

One of the paraprofessionals, Alger Coleman III, has been charged with first degree cruelty to children and battery. He is no longer employed by the school district. A second paraprofessional, a woman, has been reassigned and is going through the disciplinary process, Davis said.

“We will act with all due haste and try to move these proceedings along,” he said. “Here people do have representation and they do have something to say about the pace of the process.”

Terance Madden, an attorney who represents the students, said the videos show the paraprofessionals lifting students out of chairs, choking them and throwing them to the floor as a form of discipline.

The videos were brought to the district’s attention in late February, Davis said. Social workers and observers were immediately dispatched to the affected classroom and children were examined for bruising and other physical signs of trauma, he said.

“That process came up negative, and started on Feb. 25 after we got the complaint,” Davis said.

Madden said the alleged abuse happened when the main classroom teacher was out of the room or changing the clothes of students who had soiled themselves.

“There’s absolutely zero reason a grown adult should treat anyone like that who needs an education,” Madden said.

Davis said the alleged actions of the paraprofessionals are in no way indicative of the majority of educators in the district.

“I want to say to the employees of this district, I am sorry, once again, that a small few of their colleagues have impugned the good work that is going on by the thousands of employees of this district,” he said. “To have something like this happen is just one more slap in the face.”