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Teacher and aide suspended in Blackstone

October 18, 2010

BLACKSTONE — A special needs teacher and an aide employed by the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District have been placed on administrative leave pending a criminal investigation into allegations they were responsible for physically abusing four children in their classroom who suffer from severe developmental disabilities.
The mother of one of the children at the center of the probe, who asked not to be identified, named the teacher as Michele F. Sherwin, 58, of Franklin. Another parent identified the aide as Tonya Morin, a woman from Millville. All four children are between seven and 10 years old, the parents say.
The mother said the allegations are that her child's hands and feet were restrained for up to a half-hour at a time as punishment for the child's nose-picking. Other allegations are that the child was slapped, shoved or poked with excessive force, sometimes as an inducement to walk more quickly.
In past school years, the woman said her child had come home from Sherwin's class with clothing reeking of dried urine or unexplained bruises. Like all four children in Sherwin's tiny class, her child either cannot speak or has severely impaired short-term memory, so she was unable to question her child effectively about the cause of the problems. But she always gave Sherwin and her aides the benefit of the doubt, thinking it was best not to make waves in the school system.
“I think my big mistake looking back now is that I never went over her head,” the woman said. “I tried to keep the peace with that teacher because I thought it was the best thing for my child.”
The Call also learned of the probe from the parent of another child in Sherwin's classroom who may have been abused. This parent, who also asked to remain anonymous, said that what allegedly happened to the child was “a pretty disturbed” act involving the way the child was restrained. The parent declined to elaborate, however, saying it might serve to identify the youngster.
The parent said the child might have suffered pain as a result of what was done, but it's difficult to know for sure because the child is incapable of speaking.
“It's sad and it's scary,” this parent said. “These kids are non-verbal and defenseless. They can't say anything.”
Schools Supt. Kimberly Shaver-Hood declined comment on the situation, saying it was a confidential personnel matter. Lawyer Harold Gould Jr., the School Committee's legal counsel, and Charles Singleton, chairman of the Blackstone-Millville Regional School Committee, followed suit.
“It's the state law, I can't say anything about it,” said Singleton. “I'm not happy about it. I don't want it to look like we're hiding something, but it's the law.”
But the first parent interviewed by The Call said she received a letter from Shaver-Hood on Sept. 30 indicating that new classroom arrangements had been made for her child. The letter says the “duties and responsibilities of your child's teacher and one of her aides will be performed by other personnel” at the JFK Maloney Complex.
The letter did not identify the teacher or the aide in question or explain any of the circumstances for their apparent removal. The woman said the letter did little but confuse and alarm her, so she called Shaver-Hood to ask for details, but the superintendent declined to provide them.
The parent says she does not know whether the allegations are true, but the silent treatment from administrators upset her deeply because Shaver-Hood appeared “to be protecting that teacher, not the children.”
About a day after she spoke to Shaver-Hood, the parent said Detective Wayne Mowry of the Blackstone Police Department told her by phone that a police investigation was under way into allegations of abuse and neglect involving Sherwin and Morin. It was the first time anyone gave her a reason for the personnel shuffle in her child's classroom and the parent says, “I have to tell you, my heart sank a little. I was appalled...”
A couple of days later, Michael Thurston, an investigator with the state Department for Children and Families, came to her home and gave her details of allegations Sherwin and the aide were facing in connection with her child.
Thurston could not be reached Monday, but the woman said the investigator told her DCF was looking into other allegations of abuse and neglect involving all four children in Sherwin's classroom.
The four children had been with Sherwin and the same three aides for several years at the Millville Elementary School, on Berthelette Way in Millville, according to the parent. This year, she said, the whole class was transferred to the JFK Maloney Complex in Blackstone. Sherwin was still the teacher, but two of the aides were replaced at the beginning of the school year.
The woman, who said she has since been in contact with the parents of all the other children involved in the probe, say the allegations are believed to have begun with the new aides.
The woman said she does not know the specific allegations involving the other children, whom she declined to identify. She said, however, the children in the class are all profoundly developmentally impaired. One suffers from autism, another from Down Syndrome. One was injured as a child, another has a rare genetic disorder. One is in a wheelchair.
Because some of the allegations date back to Sherwin's days at Millville Elementary School, the woman said the police departments in both Blackstone and Millville are running parallel investigations. Blackstone's Detective Mowry did not return telephone calls yesterday, but Millville Police Chief Ronald Landry confirmed that his department launched an abuse investigation this week.
Landry declined to identify the target of the investigation, but he said, “The Millville police did receive information from the Blackstone-Milllville school administration regarding a possible incident.”
Landry said the police are currently not at liberty to release details, but he said, “We're going to conduct a thorough investigation to see whether there was any criminal misconduct, and if there was that's what we're going to report.”
The Call left a message for Sherwin on her telephone answering machine yesterday, but she did not return the call. Efforts to locate Morin were not successful.


51A filed

January 16, 2011 by jadepaquin (not verified), 4 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 164

You know a 51A was filed by a mandated reporter...let me're the mandated reporter, the parent, the cop, or the DCF worker? You know an awful lot for a reader. Let me say this: DCF and the Blackstone Police are both underqualified agencies. This is a case of the blind leading the blind. The Blackstone Police never solved the hit and run case of Rita LaPlante, or anything else that required intelligence to solve. Detective Wayne Mowry? He was demoted to "Officer" and rightfully so, but he still calls himself detective. He should have been fired many years ago, and if Ross had any leadership, he would have taken care of this. Useless! Our taxes go to people who can't figure out how to solve traffic violations, forget this type of situation. DCF, just make a report, and they will find abuse. No evidence? No problem! The accused will still be guilty of abuse. There is a huge lawsuit against them right now that was filed by six families; check it out for yourselves.

I have to say special needs

December 20, 2010 by formerstudent (not verified), 4 years 36 weeks ago
Comment: 139

I have to say special needs programs in general are usually lacking. Whatever happened in that classroom, we will probably never know the full story. These were kids that were special needs, and guess what, they were in a special needs class. The teacher and the aides knew all of this going in, Im sure of it. There was probably some discussion like "hey, you'll be teaching special needs kids". It should never have been a surpise. They were supposedly trained to teach children in this situation. So WTF happened?! First off, you do not touch anyone! That one was common sense more than a rule. Maybe teaching really isn't in the cards for these people. Perhaps a career in the prison system would be more appropriate, but then again, you could also get in trouble for physically abusing someone in jail. As a parent, I'm furious. It plants a lot of doubt in your mind regarding your child's safety when you send them off to school. A very unpleasant feeling....
This was probably more of a rant than anything else. If my child were in that situation, I would raise hell to find out what went on. Screw a lawsuit, money would be considered insult to injury.

Teacher investigation

October 25, 2010 by mommieslove (not verified), 4 years 44 weeks ago
Comment: 14

I just hope this problem can be resolved soon and everyone is ok, these are poor little children and i remember when i was in kindergarted at the JFK school my kindergarted teacher grabbed my arm and left marks on it, what is it with these teachers, gain some patients!!!!!!!!

As a parent in this school

October 25, 2010 by Disgusted Parent (not verified), 4 years 44 weeks ago
Comment: 13

As a parent in this school system I feel we should have been notified of ANY allegations regarding a teacher whether it is just alledged or proven. We have a right to know that there may be wrongdoings going on and we need to know our children are safe in school. I dont think we should be finding out this information from the newspaper, but rather from the school. But thankfully the paper did print this because we are told nothing.... the whole situation is just disgusting


October 22, 2010 by spdychuck (not verified), 4 years 45 weeks ago
Comment: 12

This story is just that, a story. It should never have been printed. The parties involved are being investigated and, up to this point, are innocent of any wrong-doing. It is apparently quite easy to be vilified if you're a classroom teacher working with children who have significant special needs. How dare the newspaper print their names and addresses! How would any one like to be accused of wrong-doing and immediately incriminated by a local newspaper and bloggers before investigations have even been completed. Let's remember that the professionals who work with these children are usually patient, compassionate, and talented people who have dedicated their careers toward improving the lives of the children they work with every day. Unlike teachers, parents, can't choose the children they get to spend the rest of their lives with. They are the ones who are, more often than not, the abusers and neglecters. Maybe we should start a "story" about the parents of the children involved. With the statistics of abuse from parents twice that from other sources, and in this litigious world where many are looking for a deep pocket and a free ride, maybe you should start another story next week about these parents, Russ Olivo.

teacher suspension

October 20, 2010 by bugpuugmom (not verified), 4 years 45 weeks ago
Comment: 8

This is discusting! These teachers should be completely ashamed. My daughter has a first grade teacher that yells so much the kids in her class cry and she is so afraid to get something wrong she crys to me she is going to get yelled at, Quit your job if you cant handle it.

teacher abuse @blackstone school

October 20, 2010 by bugpuugmom (not verified), 4 years 45 weeks ago
Comment: 7

I think if you dont have the patients to be a teacher then quit your job! My daughters first grade teacher yells so much she makes the kids cry, is that normal or a form of abuse? Id like to know

teacher suspension

October 19, 2010 by jadepaquin (not verified), 4 years 45 weeks ago
Comment: 4

Okay, so let me get this straight...DCF is involved. A teacher, and an aide, are both in on it? Sorry, I don't buy it. DCF is an incompetent organization that should be stripped of its power in the Commonwealth that is essentially a police state at this point. I know this district, and I have a son who is severely impaired and went through the district>>>THE AIDES ALONE WOULD NEVER ALLOW ONE OF THEIR KIDS TO BE ABUSED!!!! And Russ Olivo, shame on you! You tried being a teacher and couldn't hack it in this same district. I think that a person has to be out of her mind to go into teaching now. Teachers are sitting ducks for any crazy parent, student, or other opportunist, such as a DCF worker, who needs to feel empowered by inflicting harm against an innocent person. My prayers are with these people. I doubt this happened. Mom probably wants to make a quick buck and sue a school district. Why would DCF be involved unless the child was a DCF-involved student? These kids are a mess; their families are usually worse. No teacher makes enough to put up with this Marxist Regime, a.k.a. the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

FYI.....A 51A was filed

October 28, 2010 by SRE15 (not verified), 4 years 44 weeks ago
Comment: 20

FYI.....A 51A was filed (child abuse) by someone who was a mandated reporter (i.e. all public school teachers). These reports are handled by DCYF...

These families are not under the scope of DCYF presently! They were just interviewed by them. By my understanding that is how they came to know of the abuse!

I am a teacher of Special Needs children and this is horrifying! Shame on BMR for not looking at this teachers history. It is so difficult to hire teachers with Intensive Special Education Certification that they often take any "qualified" candidate!

Qualified Teacher

December 16, 2010 by Justice Hunter (not verified), 4 years 37 weeks ago
Comment: 133

All of the above opinions are just opinions. How about someone doing the homework and reporting facts! The false charges are brought against you never respond to them, you instead seek legal council.
Russ Olivio lets talk to the facts. BMR contracts outside agencies that write psychological/behavioral programs for its very involved special needs students. The staff is trained by outside consultants. The staff merely carries out prescribed programs. You never reported that. This particular teacher has an over 30 year stellar record of working with severely involved populations. You never reported that. Here we are two months later with investigations carried out by Blackstone police department, Millville police department, DCF, the District Attorney, DCYS, and the school district itself resulting in no findings. Surely with so many agencies with full access coming up with nothing, wouldn't you think its time to look at the "unidentified" person that made the allegations? This is nothing new for Massachusetts where the term Witch Hunt originated. Russ how well will you sleep when this comes to conclusion? Will you simply shirk any responsibility for upsetting the lives of others rationalized by, "I was just reporting the facts"? As assistant editor you went beyond that by printing this story on more than one occasion in true tabloid fashion. There will be no upside for Ms.Shaver-Hood, Ms. Sherwin, Ms. Morin and the shame this has brought onto BMR when this concludes and there are no findings.


October 20, 2010 by cesarone (not verified), 4 years 45 weeks ago
Comment: 9

First of all DCF does not pick out school systems or individuals for that matter to investigate for no reason. A report must have been filed against these teachers, not because the children were DCF involved. If you want to make negative comment at least know what you are talking about. I don’t think the DCF worker is on a power trip, just doing what they get paid for investigating child abuse. As far as the motivation for a report being filed anything is possible but don’t blame DCF for doing there job investigation the report. If it was your child as a responsible parent, I am sure you would want some one to look into the allegations.


October 19, 2010 by Concerned Parent (not verified), 4 years 45 weeks ago
Comment: 3

It's scary to think this could happend to young children. This story needs to get out there.

Why wasn't the whole story published online as it was in the newspaper. This story doesn't say enough...

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