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UPDATE: Teacher who dragged 9-year-old boy with autism pleads not guilty

(WSAZ)
Published: Jan. 7, 2019 at 4:13 PM EST
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UPDATE 1/9/19 @ 4:35 p.m.

A former teacher accused of dragging a student with autism down a school hallway faced a judge Wednesday morning for assault charges related to the case.

Trina Abrams pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The story we first reported Monday has gone viral. The incident was caught on security cameras at Wurtland Elementary School in October. It shows Abrams dragging a 9-year-old autistic boy, apparently by his wrists, through the school.

That video, which has been broadcast throughout the country, has drawn strong reaction from not only the boy's mother -- but by advocates for autistic kids in the education system, as well as parents overall.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.


UPDATE 1/7/19 @ 9 p.m.

The Greenup County School District released a statement Monday about an elementary school teacher caught on video dragging a student with autism down the hallway.

In the video, a teacher at Wurtland Elementary School is seen dragging a 9-year-old boy by what appears to be his wrists. At one point, it appears the teacher tries to get the child to walk on his own, but he remains limp and she goes right back to dragging him around the corners of the school.

"My son deserves justice," the boy's mother, Angel Nelson, wrote on Facebook. "The fact that my son is not able to fully verbalize what he went through means that we must fight that much harder for all kids, but especially the kids who cannot speak for themselves."

A source at the Greenup County Courthouse tells WSAZ the teacher is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning on a charge of fourth-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor.

Nelson says her son was previously diagnosed with autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, and depression. "In addition, his speech is also limited," Nelson wrote. "He has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in place to help make sure that all his needs are met while at school."

The incident happened in October.

"It was so hard for me to watch," Nelson told WSAZ Monday evening. "He didn't do anything wrong."

While he is being dragged, the video shows the boy sometimes lying on his back and sometimes sliding on his knees. The teacher pulls him by one arm at times, and both of his arms at other times.

"This incident was violent enough to not only injure my child, but to also destroy his shoes," Nelson wrote on Facebook. "[The teacher] forcefully grabbed my son by the wrist and bent it backward while he was experiencing a meltdown (which he sometimes experiences as part of his diagnoses.)"

The mom says a doctor diagnosed her son with sprains to both his left and right wrists. "In the days following, he suffered swelling and bruising around his wrist," she said.

Nelson's son told her that the teacher also "threw him hard down onto a chair," but the cameras do not show that. They only show what happened outside of the classroom.

The family says the woman in the video was in charge of the special needs program at the school.

The boy's stepfather Calep Nelson says he and his wife told her about the boy's condition when they enrolled him, and she told them she had years of experience and not to worry.

"This is the same lady that looked us in the eye and said 'Your son is safe with me,'" Calep said.

The stepfather says losing her job isn't enough.

"I think she should possibly face the inside of a jail," he said. "She didn't beat him to a bloody pulp, but she did abuse a child. Anybody that does that to a child should go to jail."

Greenup County Schools Superintendent Sherry Horsley tells WSAZ the woman is no longer teaching at the school.

Horsley released the following statement:

"The Greenup County School District prioritizes the safety of our students. The district followed established safety protocol as soon as this situation became known. The parent was contacted immediately and the student was assessed by the school nurse and referred for outside medical evaluation. Child Protective Services was contacted and the Kentucky State Police opened an investigation. The teacher was removed from the school and a formal investigation was conducted. The superintendent also followed protocol and reported the incident to the Kentucky Education Standards Board. The EPSB determines whether or not a teacher keeps their teaching certificate. All GCSD staff are trained to prevent incidents of restraint. Each school has a specially trained team to address immediate issues. In addition, each school has teachers specially trained to address autism related behaviors."

The school district has not released the teacher's name or title.

"It is my belief that all schools should be required to have cameras in place in order to protect students and teachers," Nelson wrote. "Also, all schools should have more training for teachers to handle children with disabilities and to learn proper protocol to retrain and redirect of needed."

Nelson would also like to see more laws in place to help children like her son.

"We as parents trust teachers and school staff on a daily basis to help teach and help our children succeed," Nelson said. "We should never have to worry about anything like this ever happening."

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