Mother: Child with autism came home from GRPS school bruised

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A mother was shocked to find her 6-year-old daughter come home from a Grand Rapids Public School with bruises on her arms. She is now pressing charges.

"The school should be the safest place to send our children," said Shaunte Paul-Oliver, who reported the incident a week ago. "Alona came home with bruises underneath her arms like someone cuffed her arm and grabbed it to the point where black and purple bruises were on her arm."

School officials are now working with local police trying to figure out what led up to an alleged assault inside Dickinson Elementary, located at Dickinson SE. However, Paul-Oliver says this isn't the first time this has happened.

"The first time it happened the skin was broken and she was bleeding," Paul-Oliver said.

Alona has autism and is non-verbal. Her mother says it's clear what happened to her daughter inside the elementary school.

"After she was assaulted by her teacher, I removed Alona from her classroom and the setting in general," Paul-Oliver said.

As her mother pursues legal charges, school officials are doing what they can to find a solution.

"I think we want to assure our students and parents that we have high expectations for our teaching staff," said John Helmholdt, the Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs for the school. "We expect them to love and nurture our students, and anything like this where there's an allegation like this, we're going to take it very seriously."

Helmholdt says the unnamed teacher could be fired for her actions. Both the school and Grand Rapids Police are conducting their own investigations as the child's mother searches for a new school for her daughter.

"The teacher was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation," Helmholdt said. "We're following it by the book, protocol. The safety and well-being of that child is priority one for our district."

We reached out to Grand Rapids Police for a comment on the investigation, but we have not heard back.

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7 comments

  • Km

    This entire story is based solely on this mother’s claims. Did you do your due diligence in investigating this mother’s background? She says she was assaulted, which is a very serious claim, especially without any evidence or comment from police. Poor reporting.

  • James

    This is extremely unprofessional journalism. This was a situation that would have been best to have waited for all the facts to come to light thru the police and school district investigations, then report a more informed accurate story. Its a shame that a teacher who has not been found of an wrong doing to this point will be judged through the public eye based off of a one sided incomplete news story. Was there any thought put toward what the teacher’s future in teaching will be if no wrong doing is found and they are exonerated? What about the teacher’s immediate safety due to threats or physical harm based off this one sided story? Word of advise, wait until all the facts are available before blasting out a reckless irresponsible story to the entire west Michigan viewing community.

  • RG

    I think the mother is looking for a big payday from the school. And FOX17 is helping her by running this hit piece on the teacher.

    • Jessica DeJohn

      Would you people be questioning the mother’s claims if she were white? This happened to our son too and now I wish we had done more. So sad when people make judgements about people seeking justice for their child especially when the child has special needs. The first injury was a mistake the second and third injuries are abuse!

  • Jessica DeJohn

    This is also not the first student this happened to. Now I wish we would have pressed charges too so this little girl would not have suffered. We reported a lot of concerns while our son was in the same room. Our thoughts and prayers go out to this family.

  • TB

    This is nothing new in GRPS. It’s not just the disabled kids it’s happening to. When students try to report it the school does not believe them. My son had a teacher put his hands on him and leave a choke mark, I have pictures. I made a security report, and my son’s spot at the school was revoked. My daughter was hit upside the head by a teacher, another student witnessed it. The same teacher hit another student as well. Made security report, they have never asked either of the other girls. I was told it was unfounded, my daughters word against the teacher. I was unsatisfied with that response, and was told it would be forwarded to GRPD. When I called GRPD they knew nothing about it. Another student posted a picture online of an injury from a teacher. My daughter has had her arm grabbed and squeezed, been pushed out of class, insulted and degraded by teachers in front of the entire class, to the point of crying. Kids are told to shut their holes, and threatened to be kicked out. GRPS turns a blind eye.