Assemblywoman Donna Simon, R-Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer and Middlesex, issued the following statement in response to an arbitrator’s ruling, which upheld the firing of a teacher from the Morris-Union Jointure Commission who verbally and physically abused students with autism:
“A special education teacher is entrusted with the responsibility of positively influencing the educational and holistic well-being of a child with autism or any developmental or physical disability. There are many wonderful special education teachers who are caring and incredible educators.
“I was sickened to learn about this abusive and negligent teacher’s actions and the classroom aides’ delay in reporting the multiple incidents to school officials. I am pleased the arbitrator ruled that terminating this person was the appropriate action, but am disappointed that the local police department and the State Division of Child Protection and Permanency failed to press criminal charges. It’s also unfathomable that the teaching assistants who witnessed these offenses put the fear of retribution above the safety of the children.
“We must send a stronger message that this type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, and that anyone who mistreats a child with special needs will be disciplined.”
Simon sponsors legislation, A-1636, which requires certain charges be filed against any public school employee found to have bullied a student. The bill also requires the employment of any non-tenured public school employee be terminated for such activity. It further grants immunity for any school employee if they report it immediately.