Abuse allegations spark investigation at HPSD

Abuse allegations spark investigation at HPSD
Bruising to the child
Bruising to the child

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Two Hattiesburg Public School District employees are under investigation by the district after allegations of abuse were brought forward by a parent of a special needs child.

"That particular situation that was brought to our attention is currently under investigation by the administration," Hattiesburg Public School District Spokesperson Jas N Smith said.

The investigation into the two employees that work at Thames Elementary was sparked by a parent who wishes to remain anonymous.

"It happened on the 17th of November, I picked up my son from school and he came home, he changed his clothes and then when it was bath time, I noticed the bruising and marks on his neck and back," said the parent.

She reported it to district officials the next day on Nov. 18.

"I can't go into very many details about it because of personnel matters, but we are looking into it, we are looking into the evidence that was presented," Smith said.

That evidence turned over by the parent of the child was given to WDAM. It includes multiple photos showing bruising on the shoulder and neck.

"I also took my child to the doctor for him to be checked out, and the doctor made multiple notes, and filled out the diagnosis form and listed it as excessive force," said the parent.

The doctor's diagnosis states; "a hand print was faded but appears to be caused from excessive hand pressure around his neck."

"We have a staff that is very much concerned about the safety and security of our students, and they try to do the best they can every single day for our students. But we have a large staff and sometimes people make bad decisions or bad choices," Smith said. "I don't know if that is what happened here, but we are looking into it and we are going to get to the bottom of it and find out what's going on."

"I had no choice but to speak out, my child who is autistic can't speak for himself, and I don't want this happening to another child," said the parent.

The child was transitioned to another class at the school, and according to the parent, is doing fine.

"We have long ago decided that physical re-direction of a student is not something that we are going to support," Smith said.

"The investigation was first taken over by former Superintendent James Bacchus and nothing  was ever done, he told me I would have results of the investigation by the 7th of December, and here it is the 16th and we have nothing," said the parent. "The only thing I ended up hearing, was that no one was liable for the bruises, but that was from the old administration."

According to Smith, Interim Superintendent Theresa Poole is handing her own investigation into the matter.

"I am very pleased with how Poole is handling the matter, I just want something to be done, there is no reason any child should be mistreated, and much less have hands laid on them," said the parent.

Both the teachers involved in the alleged abuse are still employed and teaching students according to Smith.

"This is something that we will get to the bottom of, and it will be done quickly and proficiently, if it proves that there was in fact wrong doing, action will be taken," Smith said.