MSNBC,Produced by Trey Luerssen, March 13, 1998

FWISD employee investigated for abuse

FORT WORTH - Fort Worth Police are investigating how a 12-year-old mentally challenged student ended up with a broken arm. And the Superintendent says he’s troubled not just by what happened, but by an apparent failure to report the injury. Now, the boy’s mother is asking for answers. And Fort Worth’s Superintendent is sending a warning letter to every teacher.

Like most 12-year-olds, Chris Bell loves to play video games. Chris is mentally challenged and, his mother, Laquicia Bell admits, sometimes difficult to control. When he came home last week from his special education classes at Boulevard Heights School, he had a bruised cheek and a broken arm and he said his teacher did it. Laquicia Bell says, "pushed him in the corner by the light switch and made this little mark on his face."

And the broken arm? According to a police report, that happened when Chris was throwing a temper tantrum, and his teacher forced his arm behind his back to subdue him. Chris’ mother says no one at the school reported the incident to anyone, until she called state child welfare workers, and they called police. Bell says, "I really think it should have been reported. And he’s telling the same story over and over and over again, so I know it had to happen."

This case follows the conviction of a teacher at another Fort Worth grade school on sexual abuse charges and allegations that others at that school also kept quiet. Superintendent Thomas Tocco says police are investigating whether a failure to report a possible crime, is a crime itself. Tocco says, "In each case, the employees affected by the investigations have been removed from the school. I want to make sure the police investigation will continue and not be hampered in any way."

Meanwhile, the Superintendent is sending a letter to every teacher, principal and administrator in the district, telling them they are obligated to report all cases of suspected child abuse or injury. Failure to do so, he warns, could result in termination.

Chris’ mother says school administrators would only say her son was hurt during an accident. He thinks they were trying to cover up what happened. We couldn’t reach the principal or the teacher at the school for comment.

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