Local News

Wake County Teacher Accused Of Hitting Autistic Student

Posted May 10, 2006

— A Carnage Middle School teacher is under investigation after being accused of hitting an autistic child several times over the past year.

An assistant to the special-education teacher reported the allegations of abuse to a school resource officer, who then notified Raleigh police.

The police department confirmed on Tuesday that officers are investigating claims that 13-year-old Jameel Smith was struck while in the teacher's custody.

"He needs 24-hour supervision at all times," said Jameel's mother, Anitra Smith. "Jameel is never to be left alone."

Jameel has been receiving special education for the last 18 months.

"Jameel would come home with little scratches on his arms and on his hands," Smith said.

Since Jameel has trouble speaking, his mother could not figure out where the marks were coming from.

"She called me on the cell phone," Smith said about an anonymous phone call she received this week.

The phone call was from a teacher at Carnage who left a message that Jameel was being "punched" by his special-education teacher.

"We expect anyone who has suspicion or information to step forward," said Wake County Public School System spokesman Michael Evans.

Evans said the teacher has been suspended with pay under the school system's normal procedure while Raleigh police investigate.

"In the meantime, our human resources is conducting its own investigation," Evans said. " (They are conducting) interviews with anyone who may have been able see anything that was alleged."

The suspended teacher has not taught at any other schools in the Wake County school system and has been a teacher at Carnage since August 2004.

This case, however, has not been the first time a teacher in the area has been accused of abusing special-needs students. Last year, Kathleen Yasui-Der, a former teacher of the year, resigned from a Chapel Hill elementary school after allegations she abused an autistic child in her class. She reached a deal with prosecutors that would keep her out of the classroom for at least a year.

And last year in Wilson, parents of a 9-year-old boy sued the school system there and a teacher, Tamara Cooper. They claimed Cooper had a pattern of abusing their autistic son, and the school system ignored their complaints. That case has not been resolved.

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