Houston County - The Houston County School Board took action Tuesday in the case of suspected abuse of a 10-year-old student with cerebral palsy at Wicksburg High School.
“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe something like this would happen,” said Melisha Salinas.
She had suspicion her son, Jose “Little Joe” Salinas’, wasn’t being treated properly at school by his teacher, Alicia Brown, and aide, Drew Faircloth.
After attaching a tape recorder to wheelchair, her suspicions were confirmed. On the tapes, you can hear harsh comments by both Brown and Faircloth.
They were initially placed on administrative leave with pay, but allowed to return after a couple of days. Pitchford said this was a mistake, and they were placed back on administrative leave.
Now Faircloth and Brown have put in their resignations. Faircloth’s was accepted effective immediately, but Brown had one condition. She wants to stay employed through the end of the year.
“I could not accept any resignation where there were any conditions or strings attached,” said Houston County Superintendent of Education, Tim Pitchford.
He said the next step is to recommend the board terminate Brown’s contract. She will be presented with a 30 day notice. Then, the school board will place a vote in May. While some may feel this is taking too long, it’s the law.
Pitchford said, “People felt like this was not moving fast enough, but again I mentioned this is a new Student First Act. It’s a new law. What we’ve done has been very deliberate to make sure that there’s no mistakes made could come back on the board and all of it thrown out.”
“To me it’s still not over. I’m still very upset by it,” Salinas said.
But Pitchford does take the blame.
“Anger does not need to be toward the principal, the coordinator, the school, or the board, it needs to be toward me. I’m responsible,” he said.
Now, Little Joe is in a new classroom with a different teacher and aide. He is being tutored twice a week after school to make up for the past two years. Salinas says he’s showing improvement.
“He hasn’t actually gotten sick since then. He hasn’t come home nauseous, throwing up. He’s actually as happy as can be. The children in school say he’s so much happier and smiling all the time. They didn’t realize he could talk and be that interactive as he is now,” she said.
She hopes her story will help others.
“Take action. If you think something like this is going on, investigate it. Believe your children,” she said.
Salinas is also filing a civil lawsuit. At this time there have been no charges filed.
Brown’s certification could also be revoked. The school board is required to send an explanation when a teacher is placed on administrative leave. It is then up to the state department of education to decide if the teacher should lose certification.