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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Claims of abuse made at state school

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Recently, a staff member of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) stated that two students have been “physically abused and verbally berated” since September.


“I’ve actually seen one particular student slammed down in a chair, jerked around by her shoulders and arms, kicked while she’s sitting in a chair and slammed down on the floor in various places throughout the school,” said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern of retaliation from superiors. 

In recorded statements, the staffer also reported seeing an instance of abusive behavior in the hallway as the student passed through the area with her class. 

“Although her behavior was non verbal and she was just crying, they took that as being defiant,” the employee added. “They took it upon themselves to use verbal and physical tactics to make her comply with what they wanted her to do.”

According to the same employee, another student, a boy, was also observed being verbally abused, then picked up by two other staff members and slammed down into a chair in the cafeteria. The staff member who spoke with the Recorder did not personally witness that incident, but claimed that “several people” did. 

Both students are reported to be preteens who have developmental disabilities that cause them to have the behavior of younger children. 

Located on the Northwest side of Indianapolis, ISBVI is a residential school that primarily serves youth who are blind or visually impaired. Established in 1847, the school educates students from the pre-school through high school levels, up to age 22. 

Annually, the number of students at the school averages between 150 and 175. 

Perhaps the most troubling allegation involves an injury the girl experienced in an aquatic center while under school supervision. Some of her front teeth were knocked out in what was reported as a fall. She was taken to the emergency room and received dental treatment. 

“Witnesses who had been inside of the locker room said that they heard some type of a tussle and a female student screaming, then a big thump,” the ISBVI employee stated.  “People in close proximity who got up to see what occurred said they did not believe the teacher assistant’s story that the student fell. They believe she was thrown down on the floor.”

When asked if anything has been done to stop the alleged abuse, the staff member said she and other employees have reported it to ISBVI administrators. 

“We have gone to the administration to express our concerns as far as the mishandling of these two particular students,” she said. “To our knowledge it hasn’t been thoroughly investigated and addressed. ”

Molly Deuberry Craft, a spokesperson for ISBVI, said she can’t discuss details of the allegations, but she confirmed that the school has looked into them using state policies.  

“ISBVI places the health, safety, and welfare of its students as top priority,” Craft said. “State law and the school have very strict guidelines as to how any suspected concerns should be addressed. ISBVI ensures those are followed precisely in order to protect students.”

When asked if there was any proof of the allegations, the ISBVI employee said the incidents could likely be seen on security cameras located in the school, if investigators decided to view footage from those cameras. 

In January, the allegations were reported to the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). 

“As far as I know, CPS was called by someone,” said the employee. “They pretty much just talked to the accused staff members. But they did not look at the security cameras, which is where the evidence can be found.” 

When DCS was asked whether or not it would review the cameras, no specific answer was given. The agency confirmed that they have been contacted about the allegations at ISBVI. However, a spokesperson said they cannot discuss their findings publicly. 

“We are not able to share information about the specific case because state and federal confidentiality laws prohibit DCS from disclosing information, including if a child is in DCS’ care,” said Sarah Holsapple, public information officer. 

Holsapple, however, did share the general procedures used by DCS to investigate allegations made at schools and other public facilities that house juveniles.

Once an allegation is reported, an assessment is made about the alleged victim’s safety and whether or not they should be removed from the facility immediately. Interviews are conducted with the individuals involved in the allegations. 

Once DCS completes an assessment of the facility, it releases a report with its findings and recommended actions to the state agency that has jurisdiction over the facility where the alleged abuse took place. 

Regardless of how investigators handle the allegations, the ISBVI employee who reported them to the Recorder hopes that the attention alone is enough to put a stop to the alleged abuse.

“I feel that the administration uses a public relations campaign to give the perception that they care about the students’ education and safety,” she said. “But in reality I feel it’s a numbers game as far as enrollment. The personal concerns of the students and the staff is not a priority for them.” 

Located on the Northwest side of Indianapolis, ISBVI is a residential school that primarily serves youth who are blind or visually impaired. Established in 1847, the school educates students from the pre-school through high school levels, up to age 22. 

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