‘I’m Afraid to Send My Son to School’: Arkansas Teacher Under Fire After Spanking Black Autistic Child in Class
An Arkansas teacher returned to the classroom this week following a brief administrative leave for spanking an autistic child in class. Now the boy’s mother is frustrated and demanding further action against the handsy teacher.
Tasheena Roper said her 5-year-old son Kemauri was on the receiving end of a whipping from Celia Wortham, his kindergarten teacher at Dwight Elementary School in Russellville. Several staff members reported hearing Wortham call Kemauri a “bad boy,” a reprimand that was followed by a hit and audible crying, according to a police report.
“How dare you. That’s my child, not yours,” Roper told local station KARK. “If you cannot control yourself in an environment, then you don’t need to be teaching.”
Wortham admitted to hitting the tot, telling the school principal she resorted to corporal punishment because she didn’t know what else to do. She was immediately placed on leave.
Roper said when she enrolled her son at the school, administrators placed him in an integrated classroom not exclusive to children with special needs and promised that staff would follow his educational plan. That promise fell flat, however.
“The school district, the teacher herself who sat in our IEP meeting, assured us they could handle him, that they could make this work, [that] they would have accommodations for him, [and] I feel like I was lied to at every turn,” she said. “They broke his trust, as well as mine.”
As reported by KARK, corporal punishment is allowed in the district. However a newly approved state law protects intellectually disabled students from being spanked at school.
Also, recent studies have shown that African-American students are punished more harshly. Roper said she no longer trusts the school system and that the ordeal has left her afraid for her son.
“I’m afraid to send my son to school,”she added. “I don’t know who else is going to do what else to him.” The Russellvile Police Department is investigating the case. So far, no charges have been filed. The Russellville School District didn’t return requests for comment.