Parents say their children are being abused in Wapato special needs classrooms
WAPATO, Wash.-- Virginia Barajas says she's tired of being ignored.
“Our word doesn't count for anything. What we see doesn't count for anything. If we see a child being, abused that doesn't count,” said Barajas.
Barajas's daughter is disabled. She's nonverbal, requires a wheelchair, and is a student in the special needs program at Wapato Middle School. Barajas contacted KIMA because she says her daughter has been abused multiple times by a paraprofessional in her classroom, and nothing's been done about it. She describes one incident where she says her daughter came home with a slap on her face.
“As soon as he brought her up he said 'Look at her. She has makeup on top.’ And we looked, he looked, too, cleared her, and she had a big slap on her face. And they covered it up with makeup,” said Barajas.
Barajas says throughout the years, her daughter has come home from school with missing teeth, bumps on her head, and scratch marks.
The school superintendent says they're aware of complaints, and they take children's safety seriously, but they have no proof of what the parents are saying.
Another mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, says her son's genitals were cut while getting his diaper changed at Satus Elementary School.
“The doctor says that this was not an accident. This was on purpose. This is something ugly. They almost cut it off,” she said.
I saw the police report filed about her sons injury. She says the school couldn't tell her who changed her son's diaper that time, and that they'd deleted the security footage. The Wapato School District Superintendent says they didn't delete it.
“So we don't delete the footage, but it is recorded over,” said Becky Imler.
The mom says this wasn't the first incident to happen to her son. She says the school contacted her another day to let her know that her son had fallen down, but that it wasn't a big deal. But when she met him at the bus stop, she was told otherwise.
“My son came with a nose bleed and he had vomited, and then the bus assistant told me, 'Don't let him sleep. Take him immediately to the hospital because I don't know exactly what happened, but it was something severe.' I took him to the hospital and he had three fractures to the skull,” she said.
Another mom who spoke to us under the condition of anonymity, says her daughter who has autism, has also been hurt by a paraprofessional at school.
Her daughter is able to speak, and she says what happened:
“The teacher scratched me. And she pushed me. Sometimes, I get scratched,” she said.
Imler says she's aware of complaints made by parents regarding the safety of their children, and that she takes these allegations very seriously.
At a recent school board meeting, parents asked for cameras to be installed in the classroom and changing room to give them peace of mind, and to make sure the people in charge of their children are held liable. But, putting a camera in a changing room could be difficult.
“That's a conversation we're having with our teachers union. I think there’s some merit to that. It’s just another step in keeping kids safe. It’s not just as easy as walking in and then placing them there because it takes collaboration. I know that our teacher's union always cares about the safety of our children and the safety of their staff members, and so I anticipate there'll be good problem solving there on what we can do,” said Imler.