Mother questions Leon Co. Schools policies on crisis prevention training after son runs from school
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A mother is still searching for answers one year after her 10-year-old son ran away from a Leon County elementary school and was missing for hours. When he was found, he had scratches on his arms allegedly caused by teachers.
Marcia Thomas says the incident in June 2021 at Bond Elementary School was “traumatic,” and claims the district hasn’t done enough to address her concerns.
“It worries me,” she said.
The troubles began with a phone call.
“My son was a runaway from Bond Elementary School,” she said.
A Leon County Sheriff’s Office missing child report breaks it down. Her son, Elijah, jumped a fence just before dismissal. Multiple agencies and school staff searched the surrounding neighborhood for hours without any luck.
Finally, a Good Samaritan dropped him off at Bond. By then, Thomas was at the school, worried sick.
“I was worried -- did anyone kidnap him? Because no one knew where he was,” she said.
Her concerns only grew once Elijah was found. She noticed small scratches and redness on his arms.
“The school till this day has not given me an explanation, not given me an answer,” she said.
Law enforcement interviews revealed what happened in the hours before he ran away.
Elijah reportedly misbehaved in class -- cursing, spitting at the teacher and throwing celery. Two teachers “held him down” by the forearms at his desk. The family filed a child abuse report with the Tallahassee Police Department.
“I want those teachers to be responsible for damages and injuries they caused my son,” Thomas said.
Both teachers denied causing any physical abuse when interviewed by police, the TPD report shows.
A July 2021 investigation by the Department of Children and Families found the teachers’ actions were responsible for Elijah’s injuries and discovered the teachers had not renewed their crisis prevention training.
“It is recommended the Leon County School Board conducts research to review the certifications for those who will be or intend to make physical contact with students,” the report reads. “If the personnel do not have the appropriate licensure then it is highly recommended that the employees seek what is needed as soon as possible.”
Leon County Public Schools Spokesperson Chris Petley outlined the district’s training requirements in a statement to WCTV.
“Staff is trained in the use of decision-making skills to match the level of the response to the risk of the crisis, focusing on the least-restrictive response to ensure the Care, Welfare, Safety and Security of all,” he wrote.
Staff receive a six-hour initial training and are required to go through a three-hour renewal every year.
“There is not a districtwide review process for expirations. However, the Crisis Prevention Institute sends out yearly reminders for renewals to all previously trained staff,” Petley wrote.
He indicated the district recommends school administrators provide information on upcoming training sessions to appropriate staff, but the district has no uniform punishment should a staff member fail to renew.
“There is no districtwide policy on a consequence for non-renewal,” he wrote.
Thomas shared with WCTV a letter she received in August 2021 from Bond Elementary Principal Delshuana Jackson. The letter indicated the teachers would get the renewal training, but a “school administrative review has not sustained allegations of misconduct.”
“This matter is closed,” Jackson added.
Petley said the case is technically in a “standstill pending possible litigation,” although Thomas has told WCTV she had no immediate plans to sue.
Twenty teachers from Bond Elementary have received training renewals, including those involved in this incident, Petley confirmed Monday.
Meanwhile, Thomas said Elijah spent the most recent school year at Kate Sullivan Elementary School, and wishes the district could provide her son more resources to suit his disabilities.
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