Three Texas middle school paraprofessionals have been fired after a video emerged of them watching an older student beat up a special-needs young student.
The aides stood around as spectators as the child, whose mental capacity is equivalent to a pre-K or kindergartener, was hit, pushed to the ground, and kicked repeatedly.
Veda Cavitt, the boy’s grandmother, and local advocates pushed the Houston-area Aldine Independent School District (ISD) to terminate three Jones Middle School aides for not immediately responding after witnessing an assault on the vulnerable child on Tuesday, Jan. 25.
Sekai, an autistic sixth grader who happens to also be non-verbal, accidentally bumped a much larger student in the hallway, prompting him to violently retaliate.
The school’s surveillance footage shows the older student mushing the 11-year-old child to the floor and kicking him as he crawled. Once the boy was able to get his footing and stand up, the older student is seen punching him until he drops to the floor for a second time.
Three adults are in the camera view (at different times) throughout the video. At one point, what appears to be a male figure addresses the aggressor and seems to separate the two. However, to no avail. The attacker kicks Sekai a few more times as the aides and other students watch.
As a result of the assault, Sekai missed two days of school and, according to the grandmother, is currently being evaluated by medical professionals to assess the full extent of his injuries.
“Those adults in that video stood there,” Cavitt said at a news conference last month. “They did not attempt to help my child get up off the ground. They did not offer him any assistance. They didn’t even check to see if he was injured.”
The grandmother became Sekai’s custodial guardian approximately ten years ago when his parents died. The severity of the child’s autism has hindered his development, stagnating his psychological growth to that of a 4- or 5-year-old, requiring her to be his principal advocate.
Community activist and leader in the New Black Panther Party Quanell X stood with the guardian during a press conference and said, “This little boy was three-times smaller than this big kid that was allowed to punch, hit, kick and stomp this mother’s child.”
He continued, “It is a disgrace what’s on that video, but it’s an even further disgrace the actions of the professionals who are hired and paid by the taxpayers of Aldine ISD.”
“How can other special-needs mothers send their children back to this school knowing the same paraprofessionals are standing in the same classrooms?” he asked.
Others are standing with the family, including Dr. Candice Matthews, the Chair of the Rainbow Push Coalition’s Statewide Steering Committee.
Matthews stated, “What we saw in this video was deplorable. It was horrid. It was unacceptable and inhumane.
“Every child deserves the right to have a safe learning environment and effective support from the school district that serves them. Aldine ISD you dropped the ball.”
Rapper Trae the Truth also weighed in and expressed how disturbed he was as a parent about the incident in a video he posted on Instagram.
He said he took the assault personally because he, too, has a disabled child and pledged to stand with the family. The Houston native said that he spoke with the boy’s grandmother, and she said that his “spirits been low.”
“I know his family needs support right now, they’re going through it which I hope that (Aldine) ISD (does) exactly what needs to be done, and don’t ignore them,” he said. “Because they do got people like myself that’s going to fight with them, fight in their corner.”
After posting the video, he surprised Sekai, letting him know that he now “has his own personal bodyguard.” He then treated the boy to a shopping spree and ice cream at his Howdy Homemade Ice Cream Shop. Located in Katy, Texas, the rapper empowers those with special needs by hiring staff from the community.
After the news conference, the school district released a statement about the incident, saying it fired the aides, saying that they were trained to de-escalate situations like this and that the altercation “should not have occurred.”
“The incident at Jones Middle School between two special needs students on January 25 is sad and deeply concerning,” it read in part. “The district launched an immediate investigation; however, upon further review, the District has taken additional action. The District no longer employs the aides present during the incident.”
The student who attacked Sekai remains unidentified, but the district said he also is a child with special needs as they seemingly addressed his case in earlier statement: “Because SLC [Structured Learning Classroom] students deal with serious cognitive issues, behavioral interventions have been put in place in lieu of traditional disciplinary action.”
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