Junior high teacher alleges assault

Shawn Wilcox, a para-educator, worked with special-education students at Kirkland Junior High School for more than eight years and never had a problem.

But that changed this past fall, when she walked out because a 13-year-old special-ed boy at the school attacked her both physically and sexually, and because she got no support from school officials, Wilcox said.

"I was hit multiple times (by the boy)," Wilcox said, adding that she complained numerous times about the student. "All I could get is, 'We know he targets you,' but they wouldn't do anything about it."

Worse, Mott accused her of "having it out" for the child, Wilcox said. That didn't make any sense, she added. "I've got eight years of glowing performance reviews."

Wilcox said she complained to her union representative about the problem, but before the union rep could get back to her, the boy did something that proved to be the final straw, she said. "The kid came up behind me and started humping me."

Police report filed

Wilcox said she told Mott she considered the incident to be sexual assault and she later filed a police report about the alleged attack. Mott, however, was less than sympathetic, according to Wilcox. He not only wouldn't do anything, Mott yelled at her that she had "provoked" the boy because she was standing near him, Wilcox said.

Wilcox said she decided she didn't want to be in the school with the troublesome boy and tried to get her schedule changed. That didn't happen, and she left the school on Oct. 18, said Wilcox, who is now substitute-teaching in the school district.

Her situation aside, Wilcox sees a broader issue connected to the behavior of the special-ed student. The boy has also attacked and harassed other special-ed students at the junior high school, she said.

In one incident, Wilcox said, the boy got in the face of an autistic boy and asked if his butt stank. "The kid completely shut down," she said of the autistic student. "That's not fair; that's not right."

The Lake Washington School District has strict policies about harassment and bullying, Wilcox noted. "In special ed, those policies are not followed."

The boy has also yelled at teachers in the school, saying he could get one of them fired, but the boy has not had to face any repercussions for his abusive behavior, she said.

Wilcox also charges that principal Deborah McCarson has tried to whitewash the incident. "The principal told teachers I asked to be transferred, which wasn't true," Wilcox fumed.

McCarson also directed all the teachers at the school to say Wilcox requested a transfer if anyone asks, said a teacher who spoke only on condition of anonymity because she fears retaliation from the principal.

An effort to get comments from the principal and assistant principal at the junior high school failed; all questions were referred to the school district.

But the teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity said the boy's behavior is escalating. Accompanied by a fulltime aide, he often wanders the halls screaming for up to six minutes at a time, the teacher said.

Nobody stops him, either, and the noise bothers almost 90 other students in nearby classes, she said. "If I had a child that had to put up with that, I'd be upset."

But the teacher doesn't think parents with kids in the school are aware of the problem with the special-ed boy. "He's continuing to disrupt the school, and he's still in the school," she added.

A lot of accommodations are being made for the boy, mainly because his parents could sue the school district if he were thrown out of school, according to the teacher.

A 'travesty'

But the same level of accommodation has not been made for school staff, she said. "It's a travesty that Shawn's not there," the teacher added. "She's never had a problem with those kids."

Joanie Kinsman, who retired last year, worked with Wilcox the entire time Wilcox was at the junior high school and describes the woman as "the most dependable, hardworking assistant I've ever worked with." And like the teacher above, Kinsman thinks Wilcox got a raw deal at the school.

"I don't like how she's been treated; I don't think it's right," said Kinsman, who is especially steamed about the assistant principal's comment that Wilcox provoked the boy. "That was totally out of line."

The school has had special-ed students in the past that were physically abusive, but they were disciplined, suspended, reprimanded or expelled, depending on the child, Kinsman said. "Kids have to made responsible," she stressed.

It's not that Kinsman is uncaring. "This isn't all his fault," she said of the boy, "but he needs to be in a more self-controlled environment."

That's a problem, Kinsman concedes. "I know the (special-ed) kids have to be in the least restrictive environment," she said of a standard mandated by state law.

Privacy issues prevent comment

Kathryn Reith, a spokeswoman from the Lake Washington School District wouldn't comment about the principal and assistant principal at Kirkland Junior High School, citing privacy policies connected to personnel issues.

She also said she couldn't talk about the special-ed student that caused Wilcox to leave the school, also citing privacy concerns. However, Reith was willing to talk about the issue in general terms.

'There are always legitimate disagreement about what is right for a specific (special-needs) child," she said. There have also been lawsuits filed in many school districts about the way special-ed students are treated, Reith noted. "Obviously parents want the best for their children."

But she stressed that the Lake Washington district does the best it can. "We have a whole team that evaluates what the students' needs are." Those needs vary, too.

"We have a huge variety of special-ed students," explained Reith, who added that some of those students can get by with minimal help, while others need fulltime aides. In some cases, she said, the students have to be placed in specialized settings because mainstreaming them in the regular school system won't work.

Some of the problems come down to economics. The Lake Washington School District has joined with several other school districts to sue the state over funding for special-education students, Reith said.

What happens is that districts have to tap regular school funding to pay for special-ed progams, effectively shortchanging the non-disabled students, she said. "The state will tell you we're wrong."

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at rzabel@nwlink.com or (206)461-1309.[[In-content Ad]]