Ohio teachers on administrative leave after video of autistic student being dragged

CRESTLINE - A video showed 7-year-old Corbin Kemle, who is autistic, being dragged through school hallways to the principal's office by two teachers last spring.

It wasn't the first time Bonnie McKean's son had faced disciplinary action from his kindergarten teachers. This time, though, McKean thinks Hannah Ruth and Heather Gregory went too far. So does the superintendent of the Crestline Exempted Village School District, Noreen Mullens.

"They've been on administrative leave since the incident," Mullens said of the teachers.

On Wednesday after the county prosecutor decided not to pursue felony charges, McKean posted the school surveillance video of the incident to her Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than 52,000 times and shared nearly 1,000 times as of Thursday afternoon.

Corbin went to preschool in Crestline the year before, McKean said, which is when the school's teachers became familiar with his condition. McKean gave them instructions from her son's doctors, including a snack schedule and ways to keep him calm.

But on the first Friday of May, McKean received a call saying her son couldn't stay at school.

"My heart sank," McKean said. "As far as we knew, biting was far behind us."

She picked him up, explained to him that he couldn't attack his teachers and grounded him for the weekend.

"He felt bad," McKean said. "He was great over the weekend for us."

She took her son back to school on May 8 at the start of the next week. A few hours later, she received a call saying "that Corbin had been having a rough day and was hitting, kicking and biting his teachers and that he needed to come home."

"I was at the school within minutes," McKean said. "Corbin was hiding under a chair in the office and waiting."

It wasn't until a meeting with school administrators that Friday that she realized something more severe had happened to her son. She learned that two teachers had been placed on administrative leave, and that Crestline Police were investigating their actions toward young Corbin.

Police showed her the school security video that included scenes of her son being dragged from the playground and through the hallways of the school.

"It was almost a full week after it happened that I saw it," McKean said. "Words can't express how I felt — I wanted to hug him and cry."

Mullens was also concerned with the surveillance recordings.

"The school district supports our employees; however, we do not condone the type of behavior that is seen in the video," Mullens said.

McKean was told her son had acted up on the playground. She understands his autism isn't an excuse, but she wishes the teachers had handled the situation differently.

"To see my little boy carried and drug from one end of the school to the front of the office by someone that is supposed to help him learn and protect him while he is at school – this was inexcusable," McKean said. "These women are trained to handle situations like this – we have given them the tools to avoid situations like this."

Mullens said the teachers faced criminal investigation for their actions, and that the situation remained a secret while the case was open.

"The prosecutor's office closed the case and it became public record," Mullens said. "They're saying that it wasn't felony charges. Now the school district will move forward with disciplinary action."

Although he couldn't prosecute the case, Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall did send a letter, with the approval of a Crawford County grand jury, to the Ohio Board of Education recommending they investigate the actions of Ruth and Gregory.

Mullens said the teachers could lose their right to teach again in Ohio.

"There's is an ongoing investigation that just started at the state level with the Ohio Board of Education's Board of Professional Conduct," Mullens said.

The teachers now must sit down with their lawyers, as well as attorneys with the school district, in what's called a "pre-disciplinary hearing." The goal is to agree on a punishment of some sort for the teachers.

"Resigning is a possibility," Mullens said. "Usually its an absence from the classroom, whether it's permanent or temporary."

If they do return to teaching at some point, Mullens said they will first be required to go through counseling and extensive training. Ruth and Gregory could not be reached for comment.

Mullens said replacements for Ruth and Gregory have already been found for the approaching school year. Regardless, McKean isn't looking forward to sending her son back.

"As parents, we are supposed to trust the school and its employees are doing their job and that our kids are being taken care of while they are there," McKean said. "I may never trust that again."

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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