Former IPS School 87 teacher charged with neglect of dependent

A blue and white sign in a green lawn in front of a large stone school building.
Julious Johnican, a former teacher at George Washington Carver Montessori School 87 in Indianapolis Public Schools, faces a felony neglect charge. (Amelia Pak-Harvey / Chalkbeat)

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The Marion County prosecutor has charged a former teacher at the center of a lawsuit against Indianapolis Public Schools with neglect of a dependent, the prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday.

Former George Washington Carver Montessori School 87 teacher Julious Johnican faces the felony charge after allegedly encouraging one student to attack another while recording the fight on his cell phone. The recording is at the center of a lawsuit filed last month that claims Johnican allowed and encouraged students to repeatedly abuse an unnamed 7-year-old student, known in court documents as “O.D.”

“As parents, we place trust in our teachers and the adults in power to keep our children safe and there should be serious consequences when they fail to meet that standard and engage in or encourage dangerous behavior,” Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said in a statement.

An attorney for Johnican declined to comment late Wednesday. An IPS spokesperson said in a statement that the district will continue to comply with all investigations concerning this case.

IPS has announced a flurry of changes in response to the lawsuit and public outcry from School 87 parents about the climate at the school and lack of communication from administrators about the alleged incidents and other concerns. Those changes include the creation of a Mental Health and School Culture Task Force and a task force focused on student safety. The district is also searching for a new principal and assistant principal at School 87.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department investigation, which began after news of the lawsuit broke, details at least three incidents in which O.D. described Johnican allowing other students to hit him.

That includes the recorded incident, which O.D.’s mother believes happened in late September, the affidavit states. Video of that incident, which circulated in news reports on the lawsuit and is described in the affidavit, shows one student on top of O.D., striking him as he is crying.

An IPS official told police that O.D. had a “long history of behavior issues” including hitting other children, according to the affidavit. Johnican made several attempts to discuss the matter with O.D.’s parents and find a solution, the IPS official told police, but “they refused to come in and basically said for him to deal with it.”

The official told police that Johnican recorded the video with the idea that “if the parents were to see what their child was actually doing to other children maybe they would come in and help.” (The child seen attacking O.D. in the video repeatedly says “Don’t mess with me.”)

But the IPS official later said Johnican “should have never recorded them in the first place,” the affidavit states.

O.D.’s mother told police that she has always been a hands-on mom and had multiple conversations with Johnican, according to the affidavit.

O.D.’s mother and her attorneys said in a Wednesday statement they were thankful that charges were filed, but that the probably cause affidavit “contained inaccurate information from a non-witness paralegal for IPS” and that documentation shows O.D.’s parents had “countless meetings with the teacher.”

Attorneys Catherine Michael and Tammy Meyer said the inaccuracies include the claim that Johnican willingly provided the video to the family, per the statement.

Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said after news of the lawsuit — which claimed Johnican created a “fight club” style of discipline — that the video was “appalling and disturbing.”

“When a parent sends their child to school, it is with the understanding and expectation that school staff will do all they can to keep their child safe, both physically and emotionally,” she said.

This article was updated with a response from Johnican’s attorney and a statement from O.D.’s mother’s attorneys.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Lawrence Township schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at apak-harvey@chalkbeat.org

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