ANTIOCH (KRON) — It was a video that was never meant to be seen by the public of a child being abused at an Antioch special needs school.
The power of social media caused that video to go viral, prompting KRON News to take a closer look at what was going on behind the classroom doors.
On Monday night, KRON’s Maureen Kelly has the first of a five-part investigation into the Tobinworld Bay Area campuses, where she uncovered more allegations of abuse.
One video prompted a state investigation. It also caused more people to come forward to say either they or their children had been abused at Tobinworld.
A 9-year-old boy was shown in the video being slapped by a teacher’s aide, as two other people hold his arms and legs. That aide, later identified as 26-year-old Kamaljot Kaur, was seen going after that same boy again and again.
Then, the images ended up being posted on a Facebook group page for parents with autistic children, some of whom called the school demanding action.
The school called Antioch police in to investigate. Kaur was arrested and charged with misdemeanor child abuse.
And a second aide, 23-year-old Chad Corbin, has also been charged with failing to report suspected child abuse.
They have both pleaded not guilty and are back in court June 6.
Both were fired by Tobinworld, a school that specializes in teaching autistic, severely emotionally, or developmentally disabled students, ranging in age from 5 to 22 years old.
Tobinworld’s executive director said in a statement that she was horrified by the incident, and they would not tolerate the mistreatment or abuse of a child.
The boy seen victimized in that video talked exclusively to KRON. We are blurring his face because of his age.
The boy’s family now has a lawyer and are expected to sue.
“That video shows a culture of abuse,” the attorney for the boy Peter Alfert said.
Antioch police are very familiar with the institution. KRON poured over the police log of calls for service involving the Tobinworld 2 campus since 2008.
Many calls involved students allegedly acting out violently against other kids, their teachers, or even themselves.
But KRON counted close to a dozen instances of police coming to look into allegations over staff being abusive.
KRON showed the video to a former Tobinworld student.
Jamal Victoria said he attended the same Tobinworld campus in Antioch for approximately eight years.
He was disturbed by what he saw.
“She’s straight up attacking him at this point,” Victoria said.
But he was not surprised.
“They claim they are restraining these students for their safety, and the safety of their students, but they use far more force than is actually necessary,” Victoria added.
When Jamal was 11 years old, he came home with broken capillaries around his neck.
Jamal told his mother that he had been choked and restrained by a teacher for refusing to do his work.
“Homer Simpson style,” Victoria said. “Just grabbed by the throat and shaken back and forth….He grabs me, throws me against the window, and then throws me to the ground, and then I’m just getting pinned. And a whole bunch of staff outside hear me getting pinned and they just come in to join in. Then, I’m just held on the floor by like three or four staff, some of which are actually sitting on top of me like I’m a chair. I’m just held there the entire day, my blood vessels are popped, and I’m salivating a lot because of the pressure, and eventually I just start coughing up blood, and they don’t stop…”
When Jamal’s mother saw his injuries, she filed a police report and pulled him out of the school at the time.
She said she tried to get help but couldn’t find a lawyer to take their case.
“Because when I talked, nobody would listen,” mother Jennifer Catalano said. “And if somebody had listened, then maybe that child wouldn’t have been hurt. And it hurts these children; it hurts them for the rest of their lives.”
She is worried most about what might be happening to kids who are so disabled they can’t speak up for themselves.
“No one is there to help them, no one is there to save them, it’s like a horror story,” Catalano said. “They are just suffering and that’s unacceptable.”
KRON reached out to Judy Weber, the executive director of Tobinworld about these latest allegations.
In a statement she says:
“Nothing is more important to Tobinworld than the safety and wellbeing of our students. Tobinworld and its staff are doing everything they can to provide the best education and support services possible to emotionally disabled, autistic, and developmentally disabled students.”
The California Department of Education vigorously investigated claims against Tobinworld and continues to certify and approve the operation of our schools.
KRON tracked down former Tobinworld teacher’s aides who said they have seen other staff using unnecessary force on students many times at that school.
You will hear their eyewitness accounts of what they said is abuse on Tuesday.