Milwaukee Teacher’s Aide Fired, Charged With Child Abuse
By The Associated Press • Milwaukee – April 22, 2016
The Milwaukee Public Schools system says a teacher’s aide has been fired after pushing a student to the floor in an incident caught on video.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the incident happened Wednesday at Bay View High School. Thirty-nine-year-old Jasmine Pennix was charged Friday with felony child abuse, with bail set at $2,500. Court records don’t list an attorney for him. His next hearing is May 10.
The complaint says Pennix pushed the 14-year-old boy to the floor and held him there by the neck. It says he was taken to a hospital with injuries to his neck, hips and back.
School spokesman Tony Tagliavia says the aide was removed from the classroom as soon as administrators knew about the incident.
Social workers knew about suicide note abused boy was forced to write, family says
Four Los Angeles County social workers have been charged with felony child abuse and falsifying public records in the 2012 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, of Sylmar, California.
The dead boy’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, are currently awaiting trial on charges of capital murder and torture.
Court records indicate more than 60 complaints were lodged with county Department of Children and Family Services about the mother.
County prosecutors allege DCFS employees Stefanie Rodriguez, Patricia Clement, Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were negligent in allowing “the significance of the physical, mental and emotional injuries that Gabriel suffered … [and] allowed a vulnerable boy to remain at home and continue to be abused.”
The four have been charged with one felony count of child abuse and one felony count of falsifying public records.
The boy’s mother and her boyfriend have pleaded not guilty to charges of beating the kid to death, shooting him in the chest and groin with a BB gun, knocking out his teeth, forcing him to eat his own vomit, drenching him with pepper spray and locking him in a cabinet in their bedroom with a sock stuffed in his mouth to silence his screams, according to court records.
Amanda Navarez, a family friend of Gabriel’s cousin, said she was shocked when she learned about the extent of the boy’s abuse.
“This was beyond abuse. It was torture,” Navarez told Fox News Latino. “We need a change in the system. DCFS needs to be restructured. I’m just hoping they don’t drop charges to lesser charges. We pay tax dollars for these people [social workers] and the union protects them.”
Fox News Latino attempted to contact Deputy District Attorney, John Hatami, handing the prosecution’s case and was told by DA spokesperson Ricardo Santiago, Hatami is not giving interviews at this time.
The fact that the social workers have also been prosecuted with criminal charges makes this case rare and historic for child welfare.
One of the most damning charges is a suicide note that Gabriel wrote, that according to court records, the social workers knew about.
“He was forced to write the suicide note, so that Pearl and Isauro could say it was his fault. They say he did things to himself. The truth is he played with dolls, and they claimed he was gay, and they hated that,” Emily Carranza, Gabriel’s cousin, told FNL.
Shortly before Gabriel’s death, the caseworkers decided to close his case.
At their arraignment last week, the social workers did not enter pleas, pending another hearing later this month. Superior Court Judge Sergio Tapia set bail for each at $100,000.
“Social workers play a vital role in society. We entrust them to protect our children from harm,” Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “When their negligence is so great as to become criminal, young lives are put at risk. We believe these social workers were criminally negligent and performed their legal duties with willful disregard for Gabriel’s well-being.”
If convicted of child abuse and falsifying records, the social workers could face as much as 10 years in prison.
Prior to living with his mother and her boyfriend, Gabriel had lived with his grandparents, starting at a month old.
Gabriel’s grandfather, Robert, told police he lost custody of the boy when his daughter took him to a barbecue and refused to return him. She later returned with sheriff’s deputies, who claimed she had rights to Gabriel because she was his biological mother.
Within eight months living in his mother and boyfriend’s care, Gabriel’s teacher, Jennifer Garcia, reported physical signs of abuse to social workers. It’s been reported that the abuse continued to get more severe.
Calls to Pearl and Aguirre’s attorneys for comment were not answered by press time.
The teacher first reported the abuse when Gabriel said his mother would hit him with a belt buckle until he bled. He asked her if that was normal.
“I called the social worker several times after that incident,” Garcia told The Antelope Valley Times, saying she had the caseworker’s number on speed dial. “She [Pearl Fernandez, Gabriel’s mother] made him wear girls’ clothes to school once, saying it was to embarrass him.”
Additionally, Gabriel told her that he wanted to go back to living with his grandparents, Garcia told the newspaper.
The boy’s grandfather told the Antelope Valley Times that he heard rumors of Pearl’s neighbors also reporting the abuse.
“Pearl gave Gabriel up as soon as he was born. There was no bonding with him as an infant. I’ve heard rumors that she [Pearl] was abused herself by Robert, who I’ve also heard is gang affiliated,” Navarez told FNL.
She added: “Isauro [the boyfriend] was always a bully, I’ve heard from friends, even though on the outside he appeared to be very nice.”
Bedford County man a repeat offender of Child Abuse
BEDFORD, Pennsylvania – For the second time in as many years, a Bedford County man has been found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child.
Cary Albright, 33, of Osterburg, was found guilty Thursday night after a day of testimony.
The most recent charges occurred after Memorial Day 2015 when Albright returned his 3-year-old son to the mother.
According to a release from the Bedford County District Bill Higgins, the mother discovered the child had been beaten. The child had injuries that included large bruises on both sides of the face and red marks around his neck, with black and blue bruising around other areas.
The release said the child was told by his father to say that he had fallen, but later admitted that “his daddy did this to me.”
In 2012, police responded to a domestic violence incident in which Albright allegedly slammed the same child’s head into a wall while attempting to flee the scene.
Two years later, a jury convicted Albright of endangering the welfare of a child and resisting arrest. He was sentenced to 11 months in jail.
Albright is scheduled to be sentenced on May 6 and will remain in jail on retainer until sentencing.
He remains in the Bedford County Jail on a parole violation detainer.
Indiana – Angie Garza stood in front of lawmakers on Wednesday with a tearful plea. She asked them to prevent another child from dying as her 19-month grandson did.
Those lawmakers responded.
With a unanimous vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee took the first step toward creating what may be the nation’s first public registry of people convicted of child abuse and neglect.
The bill, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, requires the state to create a publicly searchable website that lists all persons convicted of crimes against children, akin to the sex offender registry.
Such information exists but access is limited to police and employers doing background checks for workers in licensed child care facilities.
The origins of the proposal lie in the tragedy of Garza’s family.
Her grandson, Kirk Coleman, died in October 2014 while in the care of an Elkhart County woman whom Garza later learned was previously charged with battering a toddler and temporarily barred from caring for children.
While the woman told Garza that her grandson accidentally choked while eating, a pathologist later ruled his death a homicide caused by blunt-force injuries to the head.
“We’ve been trying to get justice ever since, not only for him, but for all children,” Garza said during emotional testimony.
Yoder said he was approached by Garza last fall, after Jackie Rolsten of New Paris, Ind., was charged in Kirk Coleman’s death.
Garza said her family had known Rolsten for many years, but they had no knowledge of her criminal history. In 2006, Rolsten was arrested on a felony child-battery charge involving a 2-year-old. She later pleaded to child neglect.
Though her prison term was suspended, Rolsten was ordered by a judge to stop her in-home childcare business while on probation. That order expired before she started taking care of Kirk.
“We had no idea,” Garza said.
Rolsten, now awaiting trial in Elkhart County on a charge of felony-battery resulting in death, didn’t need a state license to care for Kirk. Because she never cared for more than five children in her home, she fell outside of state licensing requirements.
Officials say thousands of such unlicensed childcare providers operate across the state.
Yoder said a registry will fill a gap by giving parents a place to see if someone coming into contact with their children has any prior child-abuse convictions.
“If there’s any good that can come from this, this may be it,” he said.
Still, the bill faces hurdles.
On Wednesday, a State Police official estimated it may cost up $300,000 a year to create and maintain such a registry. At this point, Yoder’s bill comes with no funding.
Supporters of the idea – including Senate Judiciary Chairman Brent Steele, R-Bedford – promised to find it a way to pay for it.
“I don’t care about the fiscal impact,” said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. “When it comes to the safety of children, I don’t care if we have to spend a million dollars.”
Other states have child abuse registries, but public access is limited.
Michigan lawmakers debated creating a public registry like the one Yoder wants after lawmakers there heard testimony from a family with a story similar to Garza’s.
That measure stalled when the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns that the registry could have an unintended consequence: Someone may be less willing to report a spouse or family member suspected of abuse because they know the individual will be placed on the registry.
The ACLU also argued the registry is a kind of perpetual punishment, not allowing for people who’ve been rehabilitated to get off the list.
Larry Landers, head of the Indiana Public Defender Council, said a public child-abuse registry may face similar challenges. He noted that Indiana’s sex offender registry, a public website that lists the names and addresses of persons accused of sex crimes, has faced multiple court challenges.
Those issues matter little for Kirk’s mother, Anissa Garza, who wept quietly Wednesday as she sat with a dozen family members to watch the hearing.
The measure must still pass the Senate, then move to the House for a hearing, but Garza said she is relieved that it is gaining support.
“I wouldn’t want to see this ever happen to any other parent,” she said.