APS Superintendent speaks out on school abuse video

ATLANTA -- The superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools spoke out on Wednesday with his reaction to some disturbing video released on Tuesday.

The video allegedly shows two para-professionals beating special needs children at Harper Archer Middle School in northwest Atlanta.

In a news conference, Superintendent Erroll Davis apologized to parents, describing his reaction to the video as disgust.

A teacher at Harper Archer Middle School released the hidden camera video after she says the district failed to take her claims seriously.

She said she wanted to prove the assistants in this special needs classroom were lazy and combative. It wasn't until she watched the video she learned they were also abusive.

Davis says the district did send in an observer as soon as it received her complaint. That person noticed an injury on one child. He says the district was in the process of filing charges against Alger Coleman when they learned the whistle-blower that took the video had already gone to police.

"I made it clear when I started here three years ago that no one who has done harm or cheated children will be left in front of children," Davis said. "They forfeit that right until they are cleared."

Coleman is not the only one under investigation. A para-professional, Keisha Smith, has been placed on paid administrative leave. She is depicted in the video striking another child twice in the head.

Police say they are also investigating her behavior to determine if charges are appropriate.

The district said it will also investigate the initial complaints made by the whistle-blower to see if the school could have done more to prevent the abuse.

The Director of Parent to Parent of Georgia, an advocate for families of children with disabilities, said schools need to provide more training for teacher's aids and para-professionals. "Unfortunately that's so much that's been cut with budget cuts in the educational system," said Debi Tucker. "The first thing to go is teacher training and on-going training for para-professionals, and that is critical."

Tucker said she was disguted when she watched the video. "I mean it was gut-wrenching," she said. "It's one of the worst things that I could have watched."

She said we need to continue the debate of whether we should put cameras in all classrooms with non-verbal children. "There are certainly arguments for and against," she said. "But when you see a video like this that is clearly an indication of what is going on, we need to do a better job of protecting our kids."

"Parents who have non-verbal children who watch this video are now living with a greater fear than they did before they watched it," Tucker said.


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