Special education staffer charged with using excessive force on students

Data pix.

GAGES LAKE, Ill. — A Waukegan man was arrested Friday for allegedly abusing children with special needs at school.

Authorities said they were first found out about the abuse in May. Police said two paraprofessionals at Gages Lake School were routinely abusing children and it was caught on camera.

Gages Lake School is a therapeutic day school for early childhood through 6th grade for students with significant emotional and behavioral needs.

Nicholas Izquierdo, 30, of Waukegan, was a paraprofessional for Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL). He is facing six counts of reckless conduct after allegations surfaced he used excessive force on students while working at Gages Lake School, according to a statement from the Lake County Sheriff’s office.

The school district said he hasn’t been at the school since May 19th when they first were alerted to the allegations. He no longer works there. Izquierdo is accused of using excessive force against the students.

According to the sheriff’s office statement, students routinely have emotional outburst and can be combative with teachers. “Staff members are trained to use approved de-escalation strategies up to and including a “physical restraint” hold when necessary to protect themselves and the students.  The hold is designed to keep the student secure until the emotional outburst subsides,” the statement said.

According to the statement, Izquierdo did not use proper techniques and acted recklessly on six separate occasions that led to children receiving minor injuries.  During several instances, Izquierdo grabbed a child by the leg and pulled, causing the child to fall to the ground.  In other instances, Izquierdo pushed or pulled a child, causing the child to fall or strike a wall.  Izquierdo also grabbed a child by the arm and twisted it.

A family of one of the students involved told WGN News they saw video of what happened. The students were put into a very small room with cinder block walls and were seen on the video pushed and hit by teachers when the teachers were supposed to be helping the students calm down.

The family told WGN News they pulled their child out of the school and haven’t been happy with how the district handled things.

The Lake County Sheriff also confirmed another paraprofessional was also under investigation this summer but authorities believe she committed suicide before charges could be filed.

The sheriff said they had nine total reports of abuse involving eight children. The school district said it looked through hundreds of hours of video. They have fully cooperated with police.

But the family that spoke to WGN News said they want to know why the video was not checked routinely.

“No adult has any right to do that to that to any child,” Lake County Sheriff spokesperson Chris Covelli said.

In a statement, the school district said it “deeply regrets” the behavior of these paraprofessionals. They have provided refresher training to the staff here and are working with an outside consultant to make more changes.

Read full statement from SEDOL (pdf)

The Lake County Sheriff said they do not expect any more teachers to be charged.

Bail was set at $25,000 for Izquierdo and is due back in court on October 29.

 

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