Girl With Down Syndrome Comes Home With 6 Bite Marks After First Day Of School
ELIZABETH, N.J. — The family of an 8-year-old girl with Down syndrome says they want the child removed from Elizabeth Public Schools after she returned home from the first day of classes with six bite marks on her face, arms and legs.
When the girl’s mother came to pick her up last week, she noticed what appeared to be a large bite mark on her face. She went to the principal’s office immediately to find out what happened since her daughter is nonverbal, the girl’s older sister said.
“She freaked out,” said the sister, Britanie Montero. “She went to the principal’s office to demand answers.”
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The child, Emily, attends School No. 22 in a multiple disabilities classroom with other students who have developmental issues, Montero said. The district says another student in the classroom bit her.
“The two students, who are both non-communicative, were experiencing their first day of school in an unfamiliar classroom environment with unfamiliar staff members,” Elizabeth Public Schools Superintendent Olga Hugelmeyer said. “Immediate and appropriate action was taken by school staff in accordance with established protocols following the incident.”
Montero said she is not upset with the other student, but rather the educators in the classroom and the district. Montero said she works with kids and understands that sometimes things happen quickly, but she questioned how another student had enough time to bite her little sister six times without a teacher noticing.
“If they were doing their job or if they had the number of staff that they should be having, it never would have happened,” Montero said.
Last Thursday was Emily’s first day at that new school, and she was already acting differently because of the large crowds and noise, Montero said. Emily has been crying and re-enacting a biting motion since she was bitten, her sister said.
“She’s not going to Elizabeth Public Schools anymore,” Montero said. “It’s traumatizing for her. We want an out-of-district placement.”
The district’s superintendent said the district employs staff members who have extensive training to teach children with disabilities.
“Children with multiple disabilities, in addition to their own personal challenges in assimilating to their environment, present unique challenges to both parents and educators,” Hugelmeyer said.
“Elizabeth Public Schools takes pride in employing staff members that undergo extensive professional development and training to address these challenges in a compassionate manner while providing a safe learning environment for students and staff.”
Hugelmeyer said School No. 22’s administrative staff referred the incident to the district’s Department of Special Services. The department, the superintendent said, is now “reassessing the individual needs and appropriate placement of the students involved based on the new information ascertained as the result of this incident.”
Montero, meanwhile, said she filed a police report and took Emily to the doctor after the bite marks were discovered.
A Union County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman said the agency was aware of the matter and in touch with “the appropriate authorities.”
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