Parents, community leaders say Middletown school officials dropped the ball with injured autistic children

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Civil rights attorney Michael Sussman

MIDDLETOWN – Bishop James Rollins of Middletown and civil rights attorney Michael Sussman have joined forces with the parents of two young autistic children, who were injured while in the care of the schools.

Catherine YaaYaa Whalen-Williams’ six-year-old daughter Mia, who is a non-verbal autistic child, was grabbed and pulled by an aide earlier in October. The family has been attempting to learn the specifics of what happened with little success.

Nicole Vanterpool’s six-year-old autistic son Matthias got off his school bus three days in a row and progressively his lips turned blue because the air conditioning was turned down so low.

Bishop Rollins said administrators must get their acts together to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

“When you call on the superintendent of the school district and the board of education, and say to them that this needs to be a priority, and it is literally dismissed as though it’s some trivial occurrence, it is not only disheartening, but it is extremely disturbing and unacceptable,” he said.

Sussman, meanwhile, said the issue is not one that only impacts Middletown children and families, but is systemic. He pointed to a case in Monroe that he said was almost identical.

Following a news conference by the parents and attorney, Middletown Schools Superintendent Amy Creedon released a statement:

“As with any allegation, the District took action immediately and investigated the matter fully. All agencies involved in an allegation such as this were notified in a timely fashion. Any interested parties were fully informed in a timely manner with regard to the allegation and the subsequent steps the district was taking to investigate the matter. In an abundance of caution, the employee who was named in the allegation was removed from the building the same day of the report. In a manner consistent with our professional responsibilities we continue to provide all scholars with safe and healthy learning environments.

As a part of this investigation we undertook a careful examination of all processes and procedures related to scholar safety. As with any allegation, the District took action immediately and investigated the matter fully. All agencies involved in an allegation such as this were notified in a timely fashion. Any interested parties were fully informed in a timely manner with regard to the allegation and the subsequent steps the district was taking to investigate the matter. In an abundance of caution, the employee who was named in the allegation was removed from the building the same day of the report. In a manner consistent with our professional responsibilities we continue to provide all scholars with safe and healthy learning environments. As a part of this investigation we undertook a careful examination of all processes and procedures related to scholar safety. We remain committed to making shifts if and when they are needed.

All Enlarged City School District of Middletown staff members participate in annual New York State Education Department Mandated Reporter training. This annual training reinforces the need for vigilance for staff to report any behavior that is of concern. If any parent or guardian of a scholar enrolled at the MH Annex at Truman Moon has additional questions or concerns or would like to discuss this matter further, myself and Mrs. Tangney, the Instructional Leader for Elementary Special Education will be available for parent meetings. I encourage parents and guardians to schedule a parent meeting by calling me at (845) 326-1155 or emailing me at amy.creeden@ecsdm.orgWe remain committed to making shifts if and when they are needed. All Enlarged City School District of Middletown staff members participate in annual New York State Education Department Mandated Reporter training. This annual training reinforces the need for vigilance for staff to report any behavior that is of concern. If any parent or guardian of a scholar enrolled at the MH Annex at Truman Moon has additional questions or concerns or would like to discuss this matter further, myself and Mrs. Tangney, the Instructional Leader for Elementary Special Education will be available for parent meetings. I encourage parents and guardians to schedule a parent meeting by calling me at (845) 326-1155 or emailing me at amy.creeden@ecsdm.org