Camera captures abuse in Klein school, pattern of non-prosecution continues

When Texas lawmakers gave Nicole Harrison the right to request a surveillance camera in her son Brandon's special education classroom - she didn't hesitate.

"In the event something happened, I would be able to see it," said Harrison.

With plenty of faith in the educators of Klein ISD, Harrison truly never thought she'd need to double-check her disabled kid's well-being.

But, she was wrong.

"I never thought that the people I trusted with my children were hurting him," said Harrison.

On April 26, the nurse at Bernshausen Elementary called Harrison with news her 9-year-old son had suffered a bloody head wound, particularly scary because a blow to a brain malformation Brandon was born with could prove devastating.

"If he hit his head wrong, it could kill him," said Harrison.

Challenged with the genetic disorder known as Angelman's syndrome, Brandon cannot speak and was incapable of telling his mother how he was injured or if someone intentionally hurt him. That's why Nicole Harrison demanded to view the video.

More than a month passed before she was able to see it.

"In one quick motion she grabs him real tight and just pushes him and lets him go and that's whenever he fell and busted his head open on a nearby cabinet," said Harrison.

Nicole is talking about a Special Ed para-professional in the classroom surveillance video she was allowed to see, but FOX 26 was not. 

"It was obvious that it was intentional and the story she told the nurse was a lie. Brandon wasn't falling. She made Brandon fall," said Harrison.

Turns out, during the month Harrison waited to see the video Klein ISD had quietly notified CPS, launched an investigation with its own police and fired the para-professional involved - all without a single word of notification to the victim's parents.

"How can you not notify the parents of a child, of any child, not just a special needs child, any child?" asked Harrison.

On September 28, a Harris County prosecutor took the case to a Grand Jury, a presentation which failed to produce a criminal indictment of the educator responsible for Brandon's injury.

"Yes, trust is completely broken. It's on video. You can see it and still nothing and no explanation as to why," said Harrison.

Klein ISD offered Fox 26 a statement stating:

The (KISD) police pursued charges with the district attorney's office who ultimately notified us that they were not accepting charges. Klein ISD will not tolerate any employee who is negligent or harmful to a student and as was done in this case, takes swift and immediate action when evidence indicates neglect or harm.

It's hardly the first time the parents of a disabled child mistreated in their public school has been bitterly disappointed.

In fact, FOX 26 has reviewed six cases delivered to local prosecutors with compelling evidence of wrong-doing.

None resulted in a criminal indictment.

In 2010, Hailey Penny came home from her New Caney special ed class covered in bruises, including an adult hand print on her body. Witnesses implicated a para-professional in the alleged assault, but a Montgomery County Grand Jury refused to indict.

"If you put marks on your child you go to jail. How are these people different? How are these schools doing this to our children and the state is not protecting them?" asked David Penny, Hailey's father.

In 2011, educators at Katy ISD's Exley Elementary were caught jamming vinegar laced cotton balls into the mouths of autistic children and employing a treadmill to inflict exhaustion and pain.  One of the victims became suicidal. Ft. Bend County prosecutors took the case to a Grand Jury, but failed to get an indictment.

"We've tried to press charges on all of these people and they just don't go anywhere. How is that possible?" asked Carol Rutar, mother of an Exley victim.

"As long as nobody gets prosecuted and these children are not actually protected the way they are supposed to be, it's probably going to continue," added Bill Rutar, Carol's husband.

In 2012 at Cy-Fair ISD's Smith Middle School, eye-witnesses said Presley Villareal was among several disabled students viciously mistreated by a classroom aid. Allegations of criminal abuse and failure to report were heard by a Harris County Grand Jury.

Again, no indictment.

"Obviously, there's a pattern and the pattern is special needs children are not at the top of the District Attorney's priority list," said Scott Villareal, Presley's father.

In 2015, hallway cameras at Wilchester Elementary in Spring Branch captured images of 8-year-old William Suter being choked and body slammed by an adult para-professional. His parents called it clear cut assault, but then District Attorney Devon Anderson refused to seek charges and Spring Branch ISD agreed.

"I think they were looking for reasons not to prosecute the case. These things continue to happen. It's just sweep it under the rug and move on," said Rafael Suter, William's father.

"These cases are just too big and too important to let the ISD's do the investigating," said Maggie Suter, William's mother.

And last year at Katy ISD's Randolph Elementary troubling allegations of serial abuse and cover-up with an eyewitness whistleblower claiming she "feared for the safety" of 3 and 4-year-old disabled kids dragged, pinched and bruised by their classroom teacher.

The case drew involvement from the Texas Rangers and was eventually presented to a Ft. Bend County Grand Jury.

But the outcome remained the same - no criminal charges.

Parent Christopher Diaz believes defenseless kids were denied justice.

"If I went over and did to a typical child what was done to my son it would be considered assault and battery, but if it’s in the school system in his special needs classroom it's considered an inappropriate teaching technique. The person who is physically putting their hands on these kids, they need to go to prison," said Diaz.

It is a pattern of mostly unpunished abuse these parents all believe will continue as long as scandal-averse school districts are allowed to police themselves and local prosecutors under perform in defense of society's most vulnerable. 

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