Indiana elementary school employees charged after special needs student allegedly forced to eat his own vomit
Indiana elementary school employees are facing charges after a 7-year-old special needs student was allegedly forced to eat his own vomit in the lunchroom with a spoon as others watched.
The Hendrick County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges Tuesday afternoon against four Brownsburg Community School Corporation employees and one third-party independent contractor from Kids Count Therapy, LLC. In a statement Wednesday, the Brownsburg Police Department said its detectives on April 20 had presented the results of its investigation involving the mistreatment of a 7-year-old male Brown Elementary School student who is in the Life Skills program.
Brown Elementary Life Skills Teacher Sara Seymour, 27, and Brown Elementary Life Skills Instructional Aide Debra Kanipe, 63, were each charged with neglect of a dependent as a Level 6 felony and failure to report, a Class B misdemeanor. Brown Elementary Life Skills Teacher Julie Taylor, 48, Brown Elementary Life Skills Instructional Aide Kristen Mitchell, 38, and Kids Count Registered Behavioral Technician Megan King, 24, were each charged with failure to report.
Brownsburg Schools sent a statement to families within the school corporation Wednesday night.
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The district reiterated that it shared with Brown Elementary families and staff that BCSC had moved forward with the termination for two staff members on April 17 "after learning of the mistreatment of a life skills student in their care at lunch," the statement said. "BCSC has been notified that these two staff members will be charged by the Hendrick County Prosecutor. Two other staff members are also being charged for their roles in failing to report the incident. More details are forthcoming from the Brownsburg Police Department (BPD)."
"As BPD releases more information about this incident, please know that the BCSC family will continue to be steadfast in our commitment to Brownsburg students, their safety, and their well-being," the statement continued. "This horrendous action is not in line with the character of staff and teachers at Brownsburg Schools. The shocking actions of a few does not define the care and concern that Brownsburg teachers and staff show every day."
According to a probable cause affidavit, police established through various interviews and other evidence that Seymour allegedly is said to have told the victim that if he vomited, he would be required to eat what he threw up. Taylor was present and provided a tray for the child to vomit on.
Police cited video of the lunchroom showing the victim seated at the table eating. At some point, the child stands up, appearing to gag on his food. He is then instructed to sit down.
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After the victim did indeed vomit, Kanipe allegedly provided the spoon that the child "was compelled to use to consume some of his vomit," police said. Both Seymour and Kanipe are seen on video standing on each side of the child while he consumed a portion of the vomit, police said. The child is then required to clean up the remainder of the vomit with paper towels.
Mitchell and King were present and witnessed the incident, police said.
The BPD Investigations Unit was contacted by Brownsburg Community School police in the late evening hours April 12 regarding a report that a student had been mistreated by Seymour and Kanipe during lunch at the elementary school in February. The report alleged that four other individuals were potentially involved in varying degrees.
The BPD requested and was granted a search warrant for video that was later secured by detectives. The next morning, the Brownsburg Community School Corporation placed the individuals on administrative leaving pending an investigation before they had contact with students.
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The school corporation contacted Kids Count the same morning and advised they were no longer allowed on school property.
"Ultimately, the termination process for Seymour and Kanipe was initiated while the others remain on administrative leave pending the BCSC School Board rulings," police said Wednesday. King remains unable to be on school property. Police said Kids Count and all involved individuals have been cooperative during the course of the probe.