By Susan Tebben
An investigation by Mahoning County Children Services of reported physical abuse of an autistic student in a classroom operated by the Mahoning County Educational Services Center has found the claim to be unsubstantiated, according to Children Services’ documentation.
On Jan. 8, the student’s mother filed a report with Austintown police after she said she received a call from Children Services about a teacher reporting a possible assault. According to the caseworker, the teacher had seen two teacher assistants from the student’s classroom, housed in the Leonard Kirtz School, “dragging him through the hall on his back by his wrist” four days earlier, the police report stated.
Investigations into the allegation were opened by the MCESC, Children Services and the Austintown Police Department.
On Feb. 7, Children Services sent MCESC Superintendent Ron Iarussi a letter notifying him that the assessment found “no occurrence of child abuse or neglect due to no observance of injuries — inconclusive evidence.”
Iarussi had maintained from the beginning that an internal investigation done by the MCESC had not found any intent to harm, but the internal investigation had been put on hold until Children Services fiished its investigation.
“We are aware that restraint and seclusion are a part of the process of educating the children and protecting the children,” Iarussi said. “This was one of those cases.”
The investigation does not completely stop with the Children Services assessment, though.
The Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Educator Conduct will receive all materials from the incident and send results to the MCESC if any disciplinary action is considered needed.
The teacher’s assistants were back at work Monday, according to Iarussi.
“As far as we’re concerned, the case is closed,” he said.