Norfolk teacher put on administrative leave after alleged ‘physical contact’ with student; investigations underway

Posted at 5:44 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 18:43:40-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Investigations are underway after alleged physical contact took place between a special education teacher at Bay View Elementary School and a student last month, Norfolk Public Schools said Tuesday.

The district provided News 3 with a timeline of important events that happened in connection with the two alleged incidents.

On October 2, NPS says a parent met with the school's principal and assistant principal regarding her concerns related to alleged physical contact the teacher had with her child the day before. Later that day, the parent contacted the special education teacher specialist via phone regarding a second incident involving the same teacher.

On October 3, the special education teacher specialist contacted Child Protective Services regarding the two alleged incidents.  Two days later, the Department of Student Support Services began the process for its internal investigation.

On October 8, CPS staff reported to Bay View Elementary to begin the investigation and advised the principal to report any other concerns involving the teacher in question.

A week later, on October 15, the Human Resources Department was notified of the allegations. The next day, the teacher was placed on administrative leave.

As of November 19, NPS says the teacher remains on leave pending the outcome of both investigations. The teacher was hired on August 21, 2001.

In addition to the timeline of events, NPS provided the following statement about the incident:

Typically, when an allegation of this nature is made, building administrators and/or the appropriate school-level supervisor notifies the Departments of Human Resources and Student Support Services immediately. Upon notification, NPS protocol requires immediate removal of the personnel in question and an investigation promptly ensues.

However, in this case, Human Resources staff was not notified according to NPS protocol. This means the resulting personnel action of removing the teacher did not take place in a timely manner. Consequently, the Acting Superintendent has addressed this breach of protocol with the responsible administrators. Further, at an upcoming division-wide principals meeting, the notification protocol will once again be reviewed and reinforced. In addition, expectations of timely parent notification by building-level administrators will be discussed.

When Acting Superintendent Dr. Sharon I. Byrdsong was made aware of the serious nature of the allegations and parent notification concerns, she personally met with the parents on two occasions on Nov. 8 and 15. She directed the relocation of the special education classroom and its students to Little Creek Elementary School with a highly qualified special education teacher and paraprofessionals to support the classroom.

The Virginian Pilot first reported the allegations and response to the teacher. Norfolk Police tell News 3 they are aware of the allegations and say they're assisting the school with the investigation.

The Tidewater Autism Association of America blasted the school's response in a Facebook post. "We condemn the Norfolk Public School District's lack of protocol and transparency in response to the physical abuse of special education students at Bay View Elementary School," the group wrote.

News 3 spoke with the group on Wednesday. They say the allegations are proof there needs to be more communication between administrators, staff and parents. "There can't be a long period of time where nobody knows what's going on or a potentially dangerous person is in the classroom," said Nicole Miller, the Resource Coordinator.

They hope it will be a lesson learned. "In this case, there are a number of things that should've been done better - could've been done better," said Diego Zuniga, Vice President of the board of Tidewater Autism Association of America.

So far, the teacher has not been named.

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