A teacher’s aide in Antioch, California, in the East Bay, was arrested Wednesday for felony child abuse after a cellphone video of the woman striking a 9-year-old special-education student in the face made the rounds on social media. Several different clips, all shocking, show the teacher’s aide, 26-year-old Kamaljot Kaur, wrestling with and finally hitting the boy—hard—while two others restrain his arms and legs:
The videos were shot and posted on Snapchat on Tuesday by another employee of Tobinworld II, the school in question. A friend of the employee who watched the videos was so disturbed that she informed the school’s principal and the police. “This is the third time this kind of thing has been recorded by him,” the friend told the Contra Costa Times. “It was so unbearable to watch, I had to do something about it.”
Tobinworld II is a nonprofit private school that contracts with school districts to serve students “who have been diagnosed as severely emotionally disturbed, autistic or developmentally disabled,” per the school’s website. And if, like me, you wondered about the school’s unusual name, which sounds more like an amusement park than an educational institution: It’s a tribute to the executive director Judy Weber-Israel’s autistic son, Tobin, who had no good school options back in 1977 when she established the first Tobinworld in Glendale, outside of Los Angeles.
Weber responded to the incident with an appropriate measure of horror. In a statement she said, "We immediately suspended the staff involved, called Children and Family Services and notified the Antioch police. The student in the video returned to school (Wednesday), uninjured, and has been in class all day.”
This isn’t the first time Tobinworld II has gotten into trouble with the authorities. The school was temporarily suspended at the beginning of this school year for hiring uncertified staffers and failing to conduct proper background and medical checks. At the periphery of this controversy was Weber-Israel’s husband, Matthew Israel, the Harvard-educated psychologist notorious for “disciplining” autistic children with a form of electroshock therapy. Israel had been working as an administrator and consultant at two different Tobinworld campuses without having submitted the proper paperwork or getting the required tuberculosis test. (Sigh: “Israel asked Tobinworld to exempt him from the tuberculosis clearance ‘due to his beliefs,’ and the school falsely told the state he had passed the test, the investigators said,” according to the Contra Costa Times’ account this past August.)
It also isn’t the first time the Antioch campus has faced allegations of abuse. From the San Francisco Chronicle story about the video:
In a 2014 lawsuit now pending in Contra Costa County Superior Court, one parent said her 9-year-old son was told he could not eat snacks or use the restroom at Tobinworld II. She alleged that in 2013 the school’s vice president, a teacher and three aides restrained the child, then kicked his feet out from under him, causing him to fall and sustain a bloody nose. When the boy cried and screamed, the suit alleged, the aides wrapped plastic around his face, forcing him to choke on blood.
It sounds like Tobinworld II needs to work on a lot more than background checks.