YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A local law firm has picked up the case of a teacher allegedly dragging a 4-year-old student at a Youngstown Head Start preschool program.
Attorney David Betras said his firm — Betras, Kopp, and Harshman — is representing the boy’s mother, Stevelyn Jackson, in the case.
The incident happened last week at the Programs of Promise at Wilson — part of the Youngstown City Schools but run by Alta Behavioral Health.
A picture showing the preschool teacher dragging the boy down a hallway circulated on the internet. The image shows up on websites ranging from CNN, CBS, the New York Daily News, and even a TV station in Seattle.
“Under what circumstances is it proper to drag a 4-year-old by the arm? I can’t think of a single one unless you’re trying to take it away from trouble,” Betras said.
It’s not known what prompted the incident.
Betras said Jackson and her son are “extremely traumatized” by the ordeal.
“I’m sure no one will be surprised to learn that Ms. Jackson’s son is frightened and does not want to return to school. The psychological damage he’s suffered could last for years and negatively impact both his academic career and his entire life,” he said.
Betras said he’ll thoroughly investigate the procedures and protocol at the school to determine whether it was an isolated incident or a regular occurrence. He wants the city and Alta to preserve all evidence, including videos and other recordings.
“I think every parent whose child attends an Alta-managed school has a right to be concerned,” Betras said.
Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip held one of his update meetings Monday afternoon but declined to be interviewed about the picture. He did say that Alta will not be operating the program next year.
Alta does not use certified teachers so Youngstown City Schools will run the new program itself.
Youngstown Schools reported the incident to Mahoning County Children Services, which was not allowed to confirm if an investigation was taking place.
Alta CEO Joseph Shorokey commented on the situation with the following statement:
About a month before the picture, we agreed with the Youngstown City Schools not to continue our partnership, which was in neither of our best interests. It’s a bad situation. Our heart goes out to the mother and the student. It’s not a reflection of who we are. Our teachers are concerned about how this will reflect on them. We have a very dedicated staff.”
The teacher’s lawyer has not responded to a request for comment.