CPS lawsuit claims teacher told students 'the longer you cry, the longer I will hit you'
CHICAGO - Parents of elementary school children filed a lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools Wednesday night claiming their kids were abused at a Far South Side school.
The parents of students with special needs at John Whistler Elementary School say they found out about a month ago that one of their teachers physically and mentally abused their children and administrators were aware. In one case, it's alleged a child was sexually abused.
Parents, along with their attorneys, spoke out at a news conference Thursday morning.
"I want the teacher who was involved to go to jail. I feel like the principal knew because the teacher has been at Whistler for 20 years," Julie Hagan, whose son attends Whistler, said. "The abuse by that teacher has to be an open secret."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight parents and guardians of children in grades kindergarten through second at Whistler. CPS released a statement Thursday saying the teacher has been removed from the school while it investigates the allegations.
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The statement from CPS also stated that they're committed to the safety and well-being of their students and take all allegations of employee misconduct seriously.
Hagan, the mother of a 6-year-old boy who is diagnosed with autism, said her son stopped eating lunch when he started at Whistler in the fall and began to cry when they pulled up to the school in the morning.
The boy also began using expressions he had not learned at home, but she assumed they were heard by other students.
"Never did I imagine that he was getting that type of language from the teacher," Hagen said in a statement to the media Thursday. "When I look back on it, what happened made me feel terrible because I wasn’t picking up the signs that my son was being abused."
The lawsuit claims the accused teacher often struck the students with her hands, wooden rulers and other wooden objects and would threaten the students when they had trouble completing tasks.
The complaint also says it was common for the educator to tell the children, "the longer you cry, the longer I will hit you" – or swear at them.
The students would often leave class with marks on their bodies and faces, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit suggests the accused teacher would harass or threaten other educators if they exposed or reported her methods of punishment.
Another parent, Pearl King, said she took her 5-year-old daughter to the hospital when she came home from school one day in October with signs of abuse. King said she complained to the teacher and principal, who both "acted like nothing was wrong."
King said her daughter’s behavior has changed since that day. She now wets the bed, is "afraid of making simple mistakes," and cries when the school bus approaches.
"When I learned what was going on in her classroom, my worst fears have been realized. Now looking back, it all makes sense," said Candace Bowen, a plaintiff in the case.
Attorneys at The Cochran Firm released disturbing images of a child's red, swollen cheek, a photo of a broken ruler allegedly used in disciplinary beatings, and an image of a child subjected to what they describe as an illegal forced time-out. They also released audio clips which the lawyers say capture the teacher physically abusing a student as punishment.
Several of the parents began crying while the audio clips were played. All of them said their children, ages five to seven and who live with conditions ranging from cerebral palsy to autism and ADHD, were victimized by the same kindergarten teacher.
"CPS knows who that teacher is, DCFS knows the name of that teacher," said attorney Victor Henderson.
According to CPS policy, corporal punishment is prohibited.
The complete complaint is attached below.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.