CLINTON, Md.- A concerned mother is raising questions about the screening and training process for substitute teachers assigned to special education classrooms after an incident in her son’s class.
A few weeks ago, a substitute teacher at Barnaby Manor Elementary ‘tapped’ Ashley Thomas’ six-year-old son on that back of his hand after reaching for something he wasn’t supposed to on a chalkboard.
"The principal called and stated Alex went up to the chalkboard to get something he wasn't supposed to and the substitute teacher went over to him and tapped his hand," Thomas said.
Alex,Thomas’ son, has autism. He's a first-grader at the elementary school. She tells WUSA9 she was really upset when she got a phone call from an apologetic school principal about the physical discipline.
According to a school medical record, a teacher took Alex to the nurse’s office to be examined for injury after the incident.
He was not hurt, but Thomas said her son should have never been touched.
"You don't know how hard a tap is. My first reaction was at least it was his hand, it could have worse," the boy's mother stated.
A spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Public School System tells WUSA9 the matter is under investigation and the substitute teacher has been removed.
Thomas tells WUSA9, Alex’s school teacher was out for several weeks in September.
During that time, Thomas said Alex had multiple substitutes which confused him. She said autistic children need structure and need to be clear about what is going on. She noticed a change in his behavior for lack of adjustment.
She said she is not confident that substitute teachers are equipped to handle children with special needs.
“To me, these teachers need to be screened.” Thomas said.
“They need to be asked ‘do you know how to work with special needs kids?’
WUSA9 reached out to the county's public school system to find how subs are picked for classrooms with special needs students. A spokesperson tells WUSA9 there is no specific training outside of "the same annual training sessions as full-time employees. "However, several steps are taken to look for substitute teachers that meet the needs of their assigned school."
Prince George's County Public Schools released the following statement to WUSA9's Mikea Turner:
Prince George's County Public Schools substitute teachers are required to participate in the same annual training sessions as full-time employees. We take several steps to ensure that our substitute teachers meet the needs of their assigned school. Whenever possible, we look for substitute teachers with experience serving that student population. We maintain a database of high-performing substitutes.