A special education instructor with the Folsom Cordova Unified School District (FCUSD) has been put on paid leave while an investigation is underway following reports of misconduct that alleges she retrained and slapped a five-year-old special needs student. 

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The alleged incident occurred at Williamson Elementary School in Rancho Cordova. Ebone McNeal and Willie Graham are the parents of Eceon Graham who is nonverbal autistic. The family pulled their son out of the school after a series of alleged incidents and a concern for his safety, the latest being the report he was restrained and slapped by the instructor while in the classroom.

According to McNeal and Graham, they first became concerned in August when their son was reportedly sent to daycare with a soaked diaper. Just a short time later they said they received a call from the school reporting their son had left the school grounds unnoticed. He was reportedly located by a passerby and returned to the school. 

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On Sept. 14, McNeal said they were alerted of the restraint and slapping incident that reportedly took place in the classroom on Sept. 11. The incident was allegedly reported by a teacher’s aired on Sept. 13. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office has since launched an investigation. On Monday, the family held a press conference outside the school as they seek more information and are calling for accountability.

“There were multiple people inside the classroom beside just the one aide that reported it,” McNeal said. “I want to know what they saw and how long this has been going on. I don’t feel like this is an isolated incident.”

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Superintendent Dr. Sarah Koligian was in attendance at Monday’s press conference and expressed her concerns into the matter to the media and the public regarding the incident. 

“We are going to hold staff accountable, but we have to go through an investigation process and we’re in an active investigation at this point in time, and because of that, there’s certain information we cannot disclose,” said Koligian.. “We also believe and agree that depending on what that investigation shows, there will be accountability.”

The school district has since issued a statement addressing the incident and the ongoing investigation. 

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“FCUSD is first and foremost committed to student safety and is taking this matter seriously. The District desires to create avenues for ongoing communication with staff and the community on all matters of student safety. We are also committed to providing truthful information and being transparent to the extent allowable under the law,” reads the statement. 

“This is an active investigation regarding a personnel matter, subject to legal requirements in place for both students and staff and therefore our ability to provide details is limited.”

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The school district added that the teacher, who has not been named during the investigation, has not been in an FCUSD classroom since September 13. They confirmed that on Sept. 14 the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education notified the student’s family and then met with them in person, along with the school’s Administrator and student’s IEP team to formulate a plan for the student’s classroom placement and additional supports to address their well-being.

The remainder of the statement reads as follows: 

“We want the family and the community to know that we are deeply concerned by the allegations brought forth and that we want to stay in close communication with the family. Our concern is for their son to have a safe and welcoming learning environment where he can thrive. FCUSD takes student safety very seriously and does not tolerate the type of alleged conduct that has been reported. 

“All FCUSD personnel investigations of this nature include legal involvement. The personnel investigation must adhere to statutory requirements and timelines that prohibit the district from immediately enforcing disciplinary action. However, the statutory timeline for personnel investigation does not inhibit FCUSD from acting immediately to tend to a student’s well-being. 

“We place a high level of importance on our systems for reporting concerns which includes staff training and encourage our community to let us know if they have witnessed a concern. Reports of concerns can be made directly to a supervisor or online through the WeTip anonymous reporting tool which is posted on all school websites. 

“If there are improvements we can make, we want to be aware so we can provide excellent and safe learning spaces for all of our students. As we examine the steps that have led to this incident, we are also looking at ways we can strengthen our processes and training for staff.”

Alan Inderkane
Author: Alan Inderkane