Everyone within the school system is mandated to play a part in protecting our children. Creating a safe learning environment, identifying pupils who are suffering or at risk of harm and then taking appropriate action to insure children are safe at home and at school. These should be some of the actions taken by elected and voluntary members of the school administrations. I realize many of you may say, it is; but in all actuality, it isn’t.
I’m neither a child protection specialist nor a trained social worker. I am; however, a mother, daughter, friend, activist and business owner who has stumbled across the scandalous disregard of two Fulton county schools that failed to protect a disabled child.
I am not saying there is no one within the Fulton county school district that has empathy. There are people who care passionately about the rights of disabled children. Most professionals who choose to work with disabled children do their best to protect them from harm; but they’re up against the system, and the system just isn’t geared up to meet the needs of disabled youth.
The most recent major research project in the United States by Patricia Sullivan and John Knutson, found that disabled children were over three times more likely to be abused or neglected than able-bodied children. Three times. This should be ringing alarm bells right through the Departments of Health and Education, but it isn’t.
In regards to the safeguarding of our children, neither the US Education Department nor the US Department of Health and Human Services seldom mention incapacitated youth, these children are rarely more than a footnote in important guidance papers.
Part of the trouble is that we simply don’t have information about the level of maltreatment of disabled children. These statistics are lacking because the Department of Health does not require Child Protection Registers to identify whether children they list have disabilities. If this was done, at least we would know how many children with disabilities are on the register, in what way they were abused and what action was taken. Until this happens, we will not know the scale of the problem.
A report from the Government Accountability Office released an article in 2009 that stated, children with disabilities are being secluded from classmates and restrained against their will to control their behavior — interventions that have led to harm and, in rare cases, deaths. In many cases, the restraints happen even when students aren’t physically aggressive or dangerous.
In one case, a New York school confined a 9-year-old with learning disabilities to a “small, dirty room” 75 times in six months for whistling, slouching and hand-waving. In another, a Florida teacher’s aide gagged and duct-taped five misbehaving children to their desks; and police say a 14-year-old boy died when a special-education teacher in Texas lay on top of the student when he would not stay seated. Police ruled it a homicide, but a grand jury rejected criminal charges.
The findings from the GAO, Congress’ investigative arm, stop short of attaching a hard number to how many children are subjected to the practices, but investigators say they found “hundreds of allegations” of abuse involving restraint or seclusion at schools from 1990 to 2009; in Texas and California, they say, public schools recorded a combined 33,095 instances in the past school year alone.
The report details 10 children’s cases, four of which ended in death. Unlike in hospitals or residential treatment centers, there’s no federal system to regulate such practices in schools — and teachers are often inadequately trained, GAO says.
Only seven states even require that educators get training before they’re allowed to restrict children, and only five states have banned “prone restraint,” which ended in the death of the Texas student.
“A child’s fate should not depend on what state they live in,” says U.S. Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat who requested the report.
It would be nice if that was not the case, however, in the Hatcher family it was. Below is a devastating story that spanned three years, 2 schools, and one school district. It is this story that has pushed me to take a more aggressive approach in bringing more awareness with the hopes of helping all children.
Teacher: Kathy Durden
From what we have gathered via video, audio and documented reports, on multiple occasions Kathy Durden and Melanie Pickens, teachers from Hopewell Middle and Roswell High School, in Georgia, allegedly brutalized Aaron Hatcher, to the point of death, according to the family.
To date, there has been no justice for young Aaron Hatcher. The authorities slithered out of its responsibility by claiming there was no crime.
No justice then for Aaron?
What does that say about our judicial system?
What message does it give to abusers?
Account from Aaron Hatcher’s father, Ronald Hatcher:
I will start from when this whole ordeal began, from 2004-2007. My wife and I were not aware of any abuse that was going on nor of any prior investigation.
I later discovered there was an investigation involving some of Aaron’s classmates who were allegedly being abused. The report I received was from one of the abused student’s parent, who found my family shortly after they discovered Aaron had passed away.( March 19, 2011)
Children were being abused at an alarming rate and it has been documented and recorded.
On behalf of my son Aaron, I am searching for a lawyer to assist my family and bring justice for my son, as of today, I have not found one to represent us.
You must know, when we found out about these allegations we were devastated and speechless. But we were born fighters, raised in some of the toughest cities in the United States; they didn’t want to mess with our family. We would take it to the Supreme Court if we had to. For sure, the system would see this case for what it was. Blatant child abuse.
Eyewitness reports prove
the abuse inflicted on young Aaron.
The school district stood by their decision on how the teachers handled the punishments, “Children like Aaron are physically aggressive and dangerous,” one school counselor said.
Ironically, it appeared more like tactics of terrorism, than a childhood punishment.
We learned of this after his death.
During this trying time in his life, Aaron would come home crying constantly. This eventually led me and his Grandmother to make trips to the school to investigate. Aaron appeared to always be in so much pain, if we touched him he would flinch. There were many occasions when we decided to take him to the emergency room because of discoloration in his skin, at basic fall points, or a bruise, that we later discovered was a broken bone or a leg out of pocket. We were devastated because it seemed there were no answers, no explanations other than his own clumsiness.
We knew things were amidst; this is why we decided to proceed with the investigation.
Our son had not been his young, joyful self for years; it was like his soul was dimming, a little at a time.
We later learned the abuse went back as far as 2001, which also entailed verbal abuse.
Eventually things got considerably worse; we were forced to have his private nurse attend school with him on a daily basis, to be our eyes and ears. She advised that Aaron’s teacher “Kathy Durden,” was now physically abusing him. At this juncture in his young life, Aaron’s health took a decline and due to the abuse his body sustained, it caused his spine to become deformed creating spinal issues that drastically affected his neck movements. One of the bones in his leg had also become dislocated, which our Doctor agreed it could have been caused by multiple falls.
A handful of students were witnesses in this complaint, but through some technicality they were discredited one by one because they were “unreliable,” according to school officials.
Aaron’s nurse also reported to us that Kathy Durden was snatching his neck by force, causing him to have trouble breathing. He had to turn his neck a certain way just so he could breath normally. When the nurse protested this action the teacher said, “his mom should teach him how to turn his head”. Despite our outcry to the principal and other staff nothing was done. The teacher was instructed to let Aaron’s nurse do her job and the teacher would do hers. My son’s nurse was dedicated to helping him in any and every way possible. On our behalf she did report the incidents that were witnessed by her, to only be threatened with the lost of her job if she proceeded. She was eventually fired for sharing patient information with us.
On one occasion I made a surprise visit to the school and found that the teacher had made her own neck restraint for Aaron, which left deep abrasions on his neck. Over the course of time there were new deformities becoming visible, which our doctor noted was caused by the way Aaron was positioned in the chair as well as other documented bruises.
This was outlandish, please note, there was no prior approval from a doctor, myself or my wife to proceed with these types of restraints. We would NOT have allowed it.
Not shortly after, Aaron passed away from a heart attack. We wholeheartedly believe his untimely death was triggered by all the extra stress and unnecessary pain in his young life.
It is without a doubt a parent’s worst nightmare to come to the realization that your “all,” was just not good enough. Nevertheless, we may have not been able to give Aaron justice in life, but he will be rewarded in death.
Our fight has only just begun, we know Aaron was being abused and that other children are also being victimized at the hands of a few bad teachers within the Fulton county schools, within schools all across the country, all around the world.
Voices of the children have been heard, but no one with the power to change things has been listening…not yet..anyway.
Please help us spread the word to stop the maltreatment of disabled children within Fulton county schools and across the world.
The Hatcher family is currently interviewing legal teams as well as putting together a new foundation in his son’s name, “The Aaron Hatcher Foundation-Stopping the Maltreatment of Disabled Children.” Contact Ronald Hatcher for more information @ (678)754-1539.
Contact Carla B. of EOTM Public Relations to schedule an interview @ (213)290-3573 –
Submit media credentials to attend the press conference in Atlanta Ga by emailing email@example.com. Date and location to be disclosed at a later date.
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Since the release of our blog there has been major mainstream attention to Rahn Anthoni’s case.We also has since omitted certain parts of the article due to our discretion.
Anthoni appeared on Channel 2 in Atlanta (8-11-2011) to share his story. You can view the interview below.