OKEECHOBEE −Allegations that Everglades Elementary School Assistant Principal Billy Ball used excessive force when restraining a student received a lot of attention on social media Tuesday.
“To some these don’t look like much. but as a mommy of children that she trusts to go to school and be under the protection of our schools, this is tragic,” an Okeechobee woman posted on Facebook Tuesday.
“I was told my son needed to be restrained due to him ‘acting out’ and got a scratch. I then asked to see my son and talk to him in private. I got the excuse ‘well, he’s calm now and it’s just a scratch.’ Me being the over protective mom walked to his classroom to find him still very upset and having not one, but two blood filled Band-Aids on the back of his knees. Then (I’m super angry at this point) was told by my son that his assistant principal picked him up and threw him on his desk. I then got his back pack and told his assistant principal that obviously this was excessive force and that I believe my son.
“He has thumb mark across his arms, red marks on his arms and a red mark across the back of his neck,” the mother’s post states.
“Anyways, I went to the school board. Nothing. Went to the sheriff’s office. Nothing. DCF has been called and so help me if they don’t do anything, it’s not gonna stop there,” she posted.
Okeechobee Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy Wednesday disputed the allegation posted online that the school district did nothing about the woman’s allegations.
He said the mother did come to the school board office, and spoke to Assistant Superintendent Renee Geeting, who notified the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office of the allegations.
“The mother met with Assistant Superintendent Geeting, and she was told that our first call would be to DCF,” he said.
Mr. Kenworthy said that is the standard procedure for any allegation of child abuse.
In addition, he said, as part of that standard practice, the school employee is temporarily reassigned until the OCSO and DCF investigations are completed.
“Yesterday, there was an incident at Everglades Elementary, and as a result there were some scratches to the back of the knee of a child,” Mr. Kenworthy said.
He explained that it is the school district’s practice to let the OCSO and DCF complete their investigations before the school district conducts its own investigation into any allegations involving children.
“We try to make it as unbiased as possible,” he said, noting that OCSO and DCF each conduct their own independent investigations.
“The district will wait for the results of the DCF investigation,” he explained. That usually takes two to three weeks, he added.
“These allegations are extremely serious and we take them seriously,” Mr. Kenworthy said.
Mr. Kenworthy said the OCSO investigated the incident Tuesday and the investigator and has closed this investigation. Sgt. Mark Roberts did not find sufficient evidence to charge Mr. Ball with child abuse, according to the OCSO report.
The superintendent said Mr. Ball has been temporarily reassigned, pending the completion of the DCF investigation.
The OCSO incident report states:
“On Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, at approximately 11:00 hours, I (Sgt. Mark Roberts) met with (the mother), parent of (the child).
“(The mother) reported that (the child) who is her son, was abused by the assistant principal at Everglades Elementary School (Billy Ball) on this same date at approximately 8:00 hours.
“(The mother) stated that the principal of the school, Mrs. Leslie Lundy, reported to her that her son had been acting out at school and trying to run away from her and Mr. Ball. She stated that Mr. Ball had grabbed her son by his arms and had forcefully sat him on a desk which had scraped the back area of his legs.
“I did observe and photograph the back of (the child’s) legs, and (the child) did have three minor scratches on the back of his left leg and one on his right leg.
“I checked the other areas of (the child’s) body where he stated to me that Mr. Ball had held onto him (both arms) but I was not able to observe any bruising marks or other signs of injury. I also had (the child’s) mother check (the child’s) buttocks and lower back area to assure there were no bruising marks or other signs of injury to his person other than the scratches on the backs of his legs.
“(The mother) stated that another person had taken photos of (the child’s) arms earlier and that his arms were very red from where (the child) was grabbed. I again checked and was not able to observe any redness, bruising marks or any other sign of injury or abuse.
“I spoke with both Mrs. Lundy and Mr. Ball regarding the incident with (the child). Mrs. Lundy reported that (the child) was acting out in class and upon her intervention he was attempting to run out of class. Mrs. Lundy stated that she held (the child) in her arms and requested assistance from Mr. Ball. She stated that when Mr. Ball arrived, they decided to remove (the child) from the class in an effort to allow classroom activity to continue without the disruption of (the child). She stated they stepped into the adjacent empty classroom where all three sat on small tables (due to no chairs) talking about his behavior.
“Mrs. Lundy stated (the child) was still upset and suddenly without warning jumped off the table where he was sitting and tired to run out of the room. She stated Mr. Bell was able to catch (the child) and return him to where he had been sitting. She stated that (the child) was not being cooperative, still trying to break away and run from them. She said Mr. Ball took (the child) by his arms and picked him up and sat him on the table where he had been sitting previously and was holding onto him there. She stated that as Mr. Ball sat (the child) back on the table, the backs of his legs had been scraped by the table edge.
“Mrs. Lundy reported that at no time did she observe Mr. Ball handle (the child) in any aggressive or angry manner of which would result in an injury to the child. She reported that the scratches to (the child’s) legs were unintentional and only occurred to due the edge of the table being rough and the fact that (the child) was wearing short pants.
“Mr. Ball stated that he did respond to Mrs. Lundy’s request for assistance involving (the child). He stated that when (the child) attempted to run away from where they were sitting on the tables, he caught (the child) and returned him to his seat on the table. He stated that at no time did he intentionally try to harm (the child) and that he was not abusive or angry with (the child). He stated that he at no time meant for the table edge to scratch (the child’s) legs.
“I did not find in this investigation that there are sufficient information or evidence to support that the crime of child abuse has taken place,” Sgt. Roberts stated.
Editor’s note: The name of the child has been withheld in this article to protect the child’s privacy.
Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at email@example.com