CA--Survivors ask: “Are schools adequately protecting special needs kids”

Victims’ group begs grand juries to investigate officials

Survivors ask: “Are schools adequately protecting special needs kids”

Recent shocking video footage of boy being punched is latest incident at the facility

SNAP: “Officials endangered kids by not responding properly to allegations of abuse

WHAT: Holding signs and childhood pictures, abuse victims will hold a news conference outside the Contra Costa County Court Administration building to:

--blast local school districts over recent reports of abuse of special needs children,

--prod anyone who saw, suspected or suffered abuse at Tobinworld in Antioch to call police, and

--hand deliver a formal request asking that a grand jury be convened to investigate whether school officials are breaking laws or endangering special needs students. Copies of the complaint will be available at the press event, as will copies of complaints to the grand juries in Alameda and Solano County. 

WHEN: Friday, January 15 at 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: 725 Court Street (between Main and Ward Streets), Martinez, California

WHO: Two-three members of a victims’ support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. (Despite the word “priests” in its name, SNAP has members abused in many types of institutional settings, including schools.)

WHY: Last week an extremely disturbing video of a teacher’s aide punching a 9 year old Oakland boy while he was restrained by others was posted on social media. The incident took place at Tobinworld in Antioch.

The aide has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse and another aide has been charged with failure to report an incident of child abuse as a mandatory reporter. Tobinworld has fired both aides, and police continue to investigate the incident. The California Department of Education is also investigating the school to see if it still meets the state’s certification requirements.

However, last week’s shocking attack was only the most recent case of suspected child abuse at the school.

Members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, question whether the school districts which send special needs students to the Antioch school responded appropriately to the earlier public allegations, and any others that may not have been made public. The group suspects that officials may have endangered these vulnerable children by ignoring these complaints. As a result, the group will be asking grand juries in three counties to investigate the conduct of officials in the school districts which send their most challenging students to Tobinworld.

A previous Contra Costa Grand Jury investigated the failure of school district personnel to follow proper mandatory reporting procedures.

The Mt. Diablo School District is currently fighting a lawsuit which alleges that district personnel failed to follow mandatory reporting requirements in the case of Joseph Martin. (Martin, a former teacher in the district, is currently serving a prison sentence for abusing boys in his classroom.)

John Does v. Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Contra Costa County Superior Court Action No. MSC14-00262

Melanie Sakoda, the East Bay Director for SNAP, said, “Many of the students in this program are extremely disabled, and cannot speak for themselves. Others are in foster care, and in less than ideal home situations. So the school districts need to take extra care to insure that these kids are safe.”

The San Francisco Director for SNAP, Tim Lennon added, “It’s important to remember that abuse isn’t just about the physical damage. I know from personal experience that the invisible scars of trauma can have long-reaching effects that are extremely difficult to overcome. Also, it’s not just the child being assaulted who is traumatized. Kids who witness the attacks can suffer harm as well.”

The group hopes that the grand juries can shed more light on how many complaints the various districts have had about the Antioch facility, and exactly what the districts did about those allegations.

Sakoda concluded, “We think it’s time that ordinary citizens like those on the grand jury take a look at whether or not the school districts in their county are really doing what’s best for these severely disabled children. Somebody needs to be looking out for these vulnerable kids. We’re not convinced that district officials are.”

The victims’ group urges anyone who experienced, witnessed or suspected child abuse at the Antioch school to make a report to the police.

Tobinworld is a contract school for special needs students. It receives monies from local school districts, including Antioch Unified and Mt Diablo Unified in Contra Costa County, Oakland Unified in Alameda County, and River Delta Unified in Solano County, to provide services for their most severely disabled students.


CONTACT: Melanie Jula Sakoda ([email protected]925-708-6175), Tim Lennon ([email protected]415-312-5820) David Clohessy ([email protected]314-566-9790)

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