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‘This is every parent’s worst fear’ | Advocates react to allegations against Brownsburg school staff members

The staff members are accused of telling a 7-year-old boy in the special education program to eat his own vomit after he got sick at school.

BROWNSBURG, Ind — The Brownsburg Community School Corporation is moving forward with terminating all district employees that were involved in a February incident. 

It comes after charges were filed by the Hendricks County prosecutor on Wednesday.  

Brownsburg Police say those staff members mistreated and failed to report the mistreatment of a 7-year-old boy in the special education program at Brown Elementary School.  

The staff members are accused of telling the boy to eat his own vomit after he got sick at school.

“This is every parent’s worst fear. That not only was their child hurt and not only was their child taken advantage of, but they were taken advantage of by the people you are supposed to be able to trust,” said Karly Sciortino-Poulter. 

Sciortino-Poulter is an advocacy network director with the Arc of Indiana. The statewide organization advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

She also has a son with autism.  

“I am sure every single parent there, whether their child has a disability or not, now every single parent is sitting there questioning, 'Was my child hurt? Did somebody try to do something to my kid? Are they actually safe there?'” Sciortino-Poulter said.  

In this case, the Brownsburg school didn’t know about the incident until a few weeks ago. Police say a separate situation sparked the investigation. Without that, no one would have known, especially because the student involved has a disability that affects his memory.  

It’s something families and advocates constantly worry about.   

“For five different people who have chosen careers to help students specifically with intellectual and developmental disabilities and not at any point did one of them pause to say, ‘Is this the right thing to be doing? Is this what we want to do to this student?’ I think that is just horrible,” said Kim Dodson, the CEO of the Arc of Indiana.  

Dodson said this should serve as a reminder for parents to stay engaged with their children and school.  

“I think parents need to just trust their gut instinct and when they think something is wrong, something is probably wrong,” she said.  

She suggests having conversations with your child often and developing relationships with their teachers and staff members. Also, you can connect with other families in the program.  

Sciortino-Poulter said it’s also OK to teach your child how to say “no.” 

“We have to teach them, it’s OK to say ‘no.’ It’s OK to stand up for yourself. That’s not being defiant, that’s advocating for yourself and that is something that is always OK to do and something you have the right to do,” she said.  

When it comes to those in the classroom, many school districts are still struggling to find teachers, especially for special education.  

“We have to do a better job of vetting who is spending time with our children, especially vulnerable children,” Dodson said. “I think everybody needs to come to the table and figure out a way to make sure these types of things don’t happen again.” 

The Arc also has an online program to help families become stronger advocates for their child and their special education program. The Arc is providing free enrollment for an online training program, “TheArc@School,” to the first 100 Hoosier families who sign up. You can find information at arcind.org/thearcschool.

Anyone who suspects a child has been neglected or abused should call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-800-5556. 

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