AISD Investigates Claims into Alleged Abuse Against Special Needs Students

by Audrey Castoreno
NewsWest 9

ANDREWS - For weeks, we've been digging for details into the alleged abuse of several special needs children in Andrews allegedly at the hands of their teacher and two aides.

One parent claims she even put a tape recorder on her son's wheelchair to try and catch the teacher in the act.

We have a copy of the tape and there's no question, it is very disturbing.

We wanted to play the tape for you, but our legal counsel has advised against it until this whole process plays out.

The Andrews School District confirmed to NewsWest 9, there is an investigation into a teacher and aides.

The parents claim that teacher is not in the classroom right now.

NewsWest 9 spoke with several parents who allege their children were victims of abuse by the teacher and now they want answers from the school district.

It all started in September, when Lauren and David Gregory, along with other parents, noticed their children were having daily behavioral problems at Clearfork Elementary school in Andrews.

"I said that's what I have to do to find out what's going on, so I taped it to the bottom of his wheelchair and I sent it for two days," Hayden's Mother, Lauren Gregory said.

What the Gregory's heard on those tapes, finally opened their eyes to what they claim was really going on behind closed doors.

However, the claims of alleged abuse don't stop with their son, Hayden.

JoAnn Wolf's grandson, Christopher, and Margareta Contreras daughter, Cassandra, also say their kids were on these tapes.

"It makes me upset for these other kids. I've met them. They're sweet kids. Christopher and Cassandra and the way she talks to them the way she treats them. It's horrible," Gregory said.

Andrews ISD is now conducting a full investigation on the special needs teacher and two aides at the school.

NewsWest 9 listened to all 14 hours of the tapes; parents allege that these are the voices of the teacher and the two aides.

On the tapes, there is very disturbing and demeaning comments, including name calling.

"Well when I was told, I was shocked. I didn't know what was said to Cassandra until they told me. I was really shocked and mad because I heard this from a mother and not from the school," Cassandra's Mother, Margareta Contreras, said.

"There's 14 hours and to this day, I've not listened to all of them. Some of it I have and I try, but there's parts of it I have been told what was said. I feel like it's going to take a long time," Christopher's Grandmother, JoAnn Wolf, said.

"I felt horrible for Christopher because they singled him out. They said horrible, horrible things to him. And my son, he wasn't more of the verbal abuse, he just wasn't talked to all day and when he was talked to they said bad things about me to him," Gregory said.

The attorney, Tony Conners, who represents the teacher and one of the aides contacted NewsWest 9 and this is what he had to say about the recordings.

Conners says, "We do not believe this student has the legal capacity to have knowledge of the recording or ability to consent to the recordings."

All of these kids have different disabilities. Hayden was born blind and suffers from Cerebral Palsy, Cassandra is autistic and Christopher has Down Syndrome.

However, there is a disturbing commonality amongst these kids. None of them can speak. A characteristic these parents believe made their children an easy target.

"Every child is a gift. But these children who can't speak, who were neglected, were physically. I don't know if physically abused, but you can hear things on the tapes where Christopher says "owie." CPS (Child Protective Services) has been involved," Wolf said.

After nine weeks of the investigation passing, these parents are still waiting for answers.

"These kids rights were violated and for somebody to still be on a payroll; it's an insult," Wolf said.

NewsWest 9 went to Andrews ISD Superintendent, Bobby Azam, to ask what next steps were being taken for these kids.

"We're aware of all the issues. We're cooperating with all the stake holders. They'll be some things that we can not discuss right now because it's still under investigation, but were working with everyone to try to get to the bottom of all of it as quickly as we can, " Azam said.

Whether these audio recordings are ever played or not, for these parents, there is no joy in their findings but also no regret.

"I'm extremely thankful and we'll forever be grateful for what they did, they saved our children," Wolf said.

"I would never take it back. Every parent has rights. You have rights for your kids. You're their advocate, you have to defend them. You have to speak for them, you have to know the warning signs and you have to know that you have rights," Lauren and David Gregory said.

However, there is one fear that they do have.

"She shouldn't have the chance to resign. She can teach other kids, she can get her pension, she doesn't deserve any of that," Gregory said.

"I really do hope she gets fired. She shouldn't be teaching children this way and who knows how long she's been doing it," Contreras said.

But these parents are also calling for changes in the classrooms of special needs children.

"We should be able to have video monitors for these kids that can't speak, because they can't defend themselves. They can't say mommy this happened," Lauren Gregory said.

"I don't think there is a parent in the world that would not sign a release for their child to be videotaped if it meant they could sleep at night," Wolf said.

"Things need to be changed. Laws need to be changed so these kids can be protected," Gregory said.

When NewsWest 9 interviewed the school district they didn't give us very much information on even a time frame of when the investigation would round out.

However, just last Thursday, they posted a special agenda meeting on their website for this Wednesday at noon.

At that time, they will propose the contract termination of the special education teacher.

NewsWest 9 will be at that meeting and let you know the outcome.

As for the teacher's aides involved in the alleged abuse, we don't know what, if any action has been taken against them.