A Florida elementary school teacher has been fired and arrested for allegedly hitting students in her special needs class. Local law enforcement has charged her with a felony count of child abuse, saying, the department takes these types of cases “very seriously.”
The teacher, Adrean Johnson, was hired by Harns Marsh Elementary just six months before another teacher observed her inappropriate behavior and reported her to the administration, NBC 2 reports.
On Wednesday, March 29, a teacher says she witnessed Johnson, 39, hitting a child and reported the disturbing incident to the school resource officer.
The school called authorities, who launched an investigation after removing Johnson from the classroom. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office interviewed students and teachers on the campus and gathered evidence regarding Johnson’s classroom conduct.
“Our Special Victims Unit worked with the Lee County School District to address this situation immediately and the suspect has been charged accordingly,” Sheriff Carmine Marceno said.
Adding, “We take this type of behavior very seriously, especially involving children.”
An investigation said they found the teacher had slapped a child in the face with her bare hand. It also showed she disciplined her grammar school students by hitting them on the legs and back and using a ruler to strike them on their buttocks, according to Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
Students interviewed by the Special Victim’s Unit detectives called the ruler she used when they were misbehaving the “pow pow stick.”
The investigation concluded there were three children abused by the teacher. However, only two families say they will go forward with the child abuse charges.
One of Johnson’s alleged victims did have documented behavioral issues and still wears diapers. This child, whose name is being withheld because of his/her age, never told his/her grandmother about the abuse. She became aware of it after noticing red marks on the child’s back.
Abuse in Special Education happens a lot more than one might think. According to a 2001 report from the National Research Council, “rates of abuse among children with disabilities are variable, ranging from a low of 22 percent to a high of 70 percent.”
According to a more recent report from the U.S. Department of Education, students diagnosed with various disabilities “make up just 14% of the nation’s student population.” These special needs students “represent about 19% of all students who suffer corporal punishment,” the findings state,
Another study adds, “Although the studies found a wide range of abuse prevalence when taken as a whole, they provide consistent evidence that there is a link between children with disabilities and abuse.”
In 2021, a 7-year-old special-needs girl named Amaria Clark was allegedly abused and bullied by her teacher at Airbase K-8 Center School in Homestead, Florida. In addition to not letting the girl use the bathroom, despite her being aware of the child having a documented urology problem, the teacher also stopped her from getting on the bus, grabbing her and leaving a mark on her wrist.
The Miami-Dade County Police Department was called to assess the incident and observed red bruises on the child’s hands and wrists also. According to her family, Clark suffered a sprained arm during the incident which resulted in her wearing a tiny sling.
On Wednesday, March 15, a lawsuit was filed in a similar case. Parents of special needs students at Whistler Elementary School filed a claim against the Chicago Public Schools, after being abused by a teacher, CBS News reports.
Like Johnson, the teacher used her hand and a ruler to strike the children — vulnerable students with developmental challenges. The lawsuit alleged the children also had marks on their bodies like one of Johnson’s students.
Some of the kids in the Chicago school had various learning disorders and were nonverbal.
Johnson, whose incident happened over 1,300 miles away in Lehigh Acres, was arrested and released on bond.
According to the LCSO, the investigation into Johnson’s action is still active.
Additional charges could be tacked on based on the discovery the detectives and the Lee County School District uncover as they dig deeper into the case.