Detroit district fires Moses Field paraeducator accused of child abuse

A calculator sits on a desk as students work in a math class at Southeastern High School in Detroit, MI. Photo by Anthony Lanzilote/Chalkbeat �June, 2019 photo�
The Detroit Public Schools Community District board voted Tuesday to fire a special education paraprofessional accused of assaulting a student earlier this year at Moses Field School. (Anthony Lanzilote / Chalkbeat)

The Detroit school board voted Tuesday to fire a special education paraprofessional accused of assaulting a student earlier this year at Moses Field School. 

Felicia Perkins, who is facing criminal charges, allegedly “grabbed a 12-year-old boy by the back of the neck, choked him, and pulled him out of the cafeteria while holding the back of his neck” in January, according to a spokesperson from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office.

Perkins was one of five employees in the Detroit Public Schools Community District who were fired during Tuesday’s school board meeting. Others included a substitute teacher accused of assaulting a student, and another teacher accused of bringing a loaded gun into a school.

Perkins’ termination came after a monthslong investigation into abuse allegations at Moses Field, one of the district’s centers for students with special education needs. 

A district investigation report on Perkins’ case said she allegedly led the 12-year-old “by his neck to the main office,” where she “swatted” him and “snatched an item from his hand.”

Perkins claimed the student threatened “to have several family members attack her,” the report said. In a separate incident a few days earlier, Perkins allegedly swatted another student, “aggressively pulling the arm and chair (of the student) in response to him holding a shoe in her direction,” the report said.

Perkins was arraigned May 22 on charges of fourth-degree child abuse, and assault and battery. A pretrial conference is scheduled for July 18. 

Another Moses Field paraprofessional was also investigated for alleged abuse, but a spokesperson for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office said an arrest warrant was denied because of “insufficient evidence to charge in that case” following a review by an assistant prosecutor. That employee was not among the ones the board fired Tuesday.

Fight with student leads to charges

The board also fired Ashley Garrett, a substitute teacher at Turning Point Academy Day Treatment Center, a school for students with severe emotional impairments, over a verbal and physical altercation with a 13-year-old student on March 21. Security cameras captured the teacher throwing several punches at the student.

Despite staff attempts to separate the two, the teacher continued to make statements such as “I’m getting my lick back,” and “going to get him,” according to a district report. Garrett, who was charged with third-degree child abuse, was identified only by initials in the report, but a Wayne County Prosecutor’s spokesperson confirmed her identity. 

The incident happened after the teacher received counseling from Turning Point principal Natasha McGhee about her “use of profanity when engaging with students.”

High school teacher charged with having weapon on school grounds

Board members fired Cody High School math teacher William Howard, who was accused of having a loaded handgun in school in April. 

The incident was described in a district investigative report and a news release from the prosecutor’s office. Howard admitted to district investigators that he had been in possession of a loaded weapon, the report said, adding that Detroit police confirmed that the gun was registered to Howard, and that it fell out of his knapsack onto the floor.

The district’s report cited Howard for violating its ethics standards by having a gun on school grounds and failing to report it to administrators.

In early May, Howard was arraigned and charged with one count of carrying a concealed weapon and one count of possession of a weapon in a “Weapons-Free School Zone.”

“I revere educators. Their jobs are among the hardest in today’s times,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a news release after the charges were announced. “But we simply cannot ignore the alleged conduct in this case.”

Ethan Bakuli is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering Detroit Public Schools Community District. Contact Ethan at ebakuli@chalkbeat.org.

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