Parents Speak Out on Alleged Abuse by USDB Teacher

Parents Speak Out on Alleged Abuse by USDB Teacher

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Parents of children allegedly abused by a teacher at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind want to know why the teacher's actions went unreported for several months.

They also want to know why state Division of Child and Family Services was the first to notify them instead of USDB officials.

Three months ago, the state concluded that five first-graders had been mistreated by their instructor.

Susan Fahncke of Kaysville said she hadn't realized her 7-year-old son was being abused, but now recognizes there had been signs: "He stopped wanting to go to school and stopped wanting to sleep alone at night."

Mindy Wilkins of Roy said she was devastated when she was told her 7-year-old son had his head slammed into his desk by his teacher.

Teresa Riccardi of Brigham City said the abuse suffered by her 6-year-old daughter is particularly disturbing because the girl has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.

"It's just disgusting," Riccardi said. "She can't walk and get away from someone who is hurting her."

Classroom aides said the teacher kicked the girl in the shin when she refused to participate in physical therapy.

Robyn Oleson of West Haven said she was unaware her 7-year-old son was being abused, but recalled he would uncharacteristically hide when the school bus came to pick him up.

Kristy Seiller of Roy, whose 6-year-old daughter also allegedly was abused, said, "If we had done this to our own kids, we would have been investigated and prosecuted. It's ridiculous. She (the teacher) gets more leeway with kids than we would have."

In November, classroom aides reported to DCFS investigators that the children had been subjected to a variety of physical abuse on a daily basis since the start of the school year.

DCFS concluded in confidential reports provided by parents to the Standard-Examiner that the allegations made by the aides had been substantiated.

The abuse began at the start of the school year in August and continued until the incidents were reported to DCFS, the reports said.

DCFS forwarded the findings of its investigation to the Ogden Police Department, which plans to shift the case to the Weber County Sheriff's Office, where officials declined to comment on whether they were investigating.

The Standard-Examiner said repeated phone calls to the Ogden residence of the teacher, whom it did not identify because she has not been charged, were not answered. She has denied abusing the children, according to DCFS reports.

USDB Superintendent Linda Rutledge said the teacher was removed from the classroom immediately after the allegations were reported and no longer works for the school.

Rutledge said the school handled the matter according to state requirements.

Mark Peterson, spokesman for the state Office of Education, said a complaint has been filed against the teacher with the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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