Monroe County ISD staff fired after mistreating students with special needs: Parents outraged

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 12:06 AM EST

MONROE COUNTY, Michigan (WTVG) - The family of an 11-year-old Monroe County boy with autism, can’t help but ask the question why, over and over again, when they think about what they say his teachers did to him at school. The boy’s family asked us to call him J.J.

“What type of individual do you have to be to lock a child up, a special needs child, in a bathroom,” said J.J.’s aunt, Audrianna Zepeda.

J.J. attends The Educational Center at the Monroe County Intermediate School District which is a school that specializes in serving students with special needs. J.J.’s mother tells 13abc she started noticing a difference in his behavior, since the beginning of the school year, but couldn’t understand why he no longer wanted to get up for school or play nicely with his brother.

“This is my worst nightmare,” said J.J.’s mother Precious Gonzales.

A school district spokesperson tells 13abc in an email that,

“On October 27, 2022, MCISD administrators received a report that three Educational Center staff members inappropriately secluded and/or restrained students in the classroom. MCISD administrators immediately placed the staff members on administrative leave and began an investigation into the matter.”

“I was made aware there was a situation with my son at school and it was basically that he was being put in seclusion. Anywhere from two minutes to 10 minutes they were either holding the door shut or they were locking him in it, and they had no eyes on him for that amount of time that he was in there,” said Gonzales.

The spokesperson for the school adds that,

“After the MCISD completed its investigation, the MCISD concluded that the three staff members engaged in misconduct and the staff members are no longer employed with the district. MCISD administrators promptly informed the parents of the impacted students of the report and the investigation’s findings.”

Now, J.J’s family is speaking out on his behalf, but they say they will forever be left with an invisible scar.

“Since he can’t tell his side of the story, we have to speak for him. We have to advocate for him. So, I wanted to be his voice since he doesn’t have one of his own,” said Zepeda. ”We have some trust issues now. For the rest of our lives we’re going to be second guessing anything the school does, or anywhere they go, who they’re with. So, this leaves a scar on everyone in this household.”

The Monroe County Sherrif’s Office tells 13abc it has opened a separate criminal investigation into the allegations. It is still ongoing.

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