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‘There Is No Excuse’: Furious Parents Say Principal ‘Stomped’ on 9-Year-Old Autistic Boy’s Leg, Left It Broken; They Want Him Fired

The principal of WJ Cooper Elementary School in suburban Atlanta is under fire after one of his students reportedly suffered a broken leg while in his care on campus.

The child’s family asserts the administrator was responsible for the injury and believes he should be fired and criminally charged.

Dr. Lisa Hall Shell, who works at the same school as a detention supervisor, believes a crime was committed against her son.

The principal of WJ Cooper Elementary School in suburban Atlanta accused on stomping boy's leg
Principal Paul Willis, left, is accused of breaking a 9-year-old’s boy leg. (Photo: Fox 5 Atlanta/YouTube screenshot)

She videotaped her 9-year-old’s account of the altercation shortly after the alleged assault and assessed the administrator used excessive force when trying to discipline her child, Fox 5 reported.

Gwinnett County School District, the Gwinnett County Public School Police, and the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services State Office are now investigating the altercation and will determine if Shell’s claims have merit.

The student reportedly is on the autism spectrum and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Based on his clinical diagnosis, he is assigned to an emotional disability class. On the day of the incident, Tuesday, April 11, he got into a fight with another student. As a result of his behavior, he was placed in the school’s behavior recovery room.

According to, schools use recovery rooms to help direct disruptive students to “reflect on their mistakes and find ways to improve, without hindering the entire class and frustrating their classroom teachers.”

However, instead of reflection, the interaction between the child and the administrators in the room became chaotic.  

At one point, according to the student, Principal Paul Willis and another administrator tried to calm him down but wound up getting physical.

Shell said after the child was injured, administrators reached out to her, stating there was a disciplinary “incident” involving her son and that she needed to take him home. The call did not go into detail regarding what happened.

Before leaving campus, Shell looked over her son and realized he was injured — a fact no one at the school had shared with her earlier.

She immediately took the boy to Northside Gwinnett Hospital. On the way, she probed the boy about what had happened to him in the recovery room.

When she asked him who pinned him to the wall, the child identified “Mr. Willis,” the principal.

The mother followed up and asked if there was anyone else around during the altercation. The child answered, “Yes.”

“Mr. Willis started throwing me around the room, and then he stomped on my leg,” the mother said her son told her once they were in her car.

Once the fourth grader was reviewed at the hospital, a physician assistant called the police to report what could possibly be seen as abuse.

The frustrated mom said. “He was trying to get out of the room. They pinned him up. He has a broken tibia.”

According to an interview Shell had with Atlanta News First, “the tibia on his right leg is fractured from the inside, so that means he was laying on the floor when somebody stomped on his leg.”

This is not the first time Shell’s son has had an issue with Willis. In March, she said she had to intervene after Willis disciplined her son.

“I wanted him there for school for academics because he’s so smart, but I never thought that this would happen to him,” the mom said in reflection. “So, yeah, I feel like I failed him and I didn’t protect him.”

Willis contends the boy was out of control.

In a letter explaining the incident to the Cooper community, the principal said the boy continued “to act out hitting, kicking and biting the other administrator and me” and noted physical attacks would not be tolerated.

He also wrote, “I want to be clear; no Cooper Elementary staff intentionally or unintentionally harmed this child.”

Shell’s son has since been suspended from Cooper. The transfer that allowed him to enroll at the school has also been revoked.

The boy’s parents Dr. Shell and Keith Shell believe the attention should not be on their son but on Willis and his conduct.

“I think it’s time for him to go because he’s not caring about the children the way he should and if…and if now we’re at the point where we’re breaking children’s legs there’s a problem, something in the system is broken,” Dr. Shell said.

Keith Shell said he was “furious.”

“I don’t even want to look at this man because there is no excuse,” the boy’s father said.

Willis has not been suspended from his post as principal, and the district has not taken any action against him. However, reports state the principal was not in school days after the incident became public.

What people are saying

12 thoughts on “‘There Is No Excuse’: Furious Parents Say Principal ‘Stomped’ on 9-Year-Old Autistic Boy’s Leg, Left It Broken; They Want Him Fired

  1. Cynthia Josey says:

    There is always a cause/effect situation. What caused the child to become upset, to the point he acts out. No human should ever stomp on another human being as a grandmother with a autistic grandchild, there are ways to desensitize a situation. Children know whether you like them or not especially children with special needs. It’s sad .

  2. Charlie Bourque says:

    I would fire him and make him pay for all med bills, and then get a lawyer to work her case on the school, school board, city, and state law suit.

  3. Hugh says:

    “Violent is as American as cherry pie.” The US uses more physical punishment towards children (i.e. “spanking”) than any other Developed Nations, the ONLY one that allows schools to use violence against children, etc. In short, there’s no coincidence the US supports and uses violence more than other Developed Nations, and also has the highest rates of violence used by children. Children are what they learn and experience.

  4. Fran Stengman says:

    Thanks, GOP.

  5. Sandra says:

    This is clear and blatant child abuse that should not be tolerated especially by a school administrator! If I were the parents I would file a personal injury suit against the principal, the school, and the school district! This isn’t corporal punishment this is child endangerment! Absolutely SHAMEFUL!

  6. NotSoSure says:

    I believe we should hear the full story before we make a judgement. I have heard wonderful things about this principal. I have heard no so great things about this mom/son (kicked out of another school). I get special needs need special consideration and violence or deliberately hurting a child is never acceptable but sounds like there is was more to this story!

  7. Karin Fox says:

    These admins don’t understand disability OR the law, and do things to children to “calm them down” or “discipline” that they would NEVER do to their own kids. They create and escalate issues rather than de-escalating, and then they move to “discipline.” They have no idea what they’re doing and then they blame the kid- just like the commenter above. It’s horrendous. “Recovery room”- more like a torture chamber. Disgusting.

  8. Jeweleanlowery says:

    The child didn’t do it to his self and that’s for sure the pri cipal was involved and the child is autistic Shane on the s hool f I r trying to cover it up

  9. Anonymous6847 says:

    I go to this school, and I know that Mr. Willis would not do anything like this to somebody. There had to be another reason. I am not blaming this on the circumstances leading up to this, but something is missing in the big picture.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It is absurd that anyone would think that Mr.Willis would intentionally or unintentionally injure a child. That man cares for his community and there is no reason to believe anything criminally took place. It’s unfortunate what happened but Mr.Willis is not to blame. Full story needs to be heard.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This, and much of the other reporting on this incident, is irresponsible journalism. The only first hand account of this situation that you covered is a 9 year old child who was just kicked out of a school for his behavior. CPS, the school board (who is left leaning), the police and more have reviewed this case and determined there was no wrongdoing. Imagine having your name and reputation ruined by a 9yo and an upset mom.

  12. Anonymous says:

    This certainly is irresponsible journalism. Where is the follow up from this report to the facts? The media is going to be responsible for driving away some of our best teachers b/c of reports just like this. There is a lot of missing facts and info from this story. If the media was doing there job there would have been a follow up.

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