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Informing parents of maltreatment

Published (3/4/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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Lora and Shawn Herman’s lives changed in May of 2006 — but they wouldn’t realize it for months. Their son Kyle, a 6 year old with Down syndrome, had started kindergarten the previous fall.

Kyle, who was uncommunicative, had behavior problems at home and at school that were not resolved despite the family’s efforts to seek medical and therapeutic help.

Not until April 2007 did the Hermans learn Kyle’s teacher had been put on leave for suspected maltreatment of their son. The school confirmed in December 2007 that abuse had occurred but because the case was in arbitration could not release details.

In May 2008, the Hermans got a redacted copy of the arbitration report from the Education Department. It indicated Kyle’s teacher had struck and yelled at him, threatened to tie him up, held a beanbag chair against him while he was face down on a mat, taunted him in front of others, pulled his hair and dragged him across the room by his wrists.

“In total, [he experienced] seven months of abuse and it took 18 months for us to learn what happened,” said Lora Herman. “One of the things Kyle did learn in kindergarten was what his teacher taught him, to hit.”

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), HF3157, The Kyle Herman Bill, would require the education commissioner to report a maltreatment investigation or assessment of an allegation to a parent or legal guardian of a student within 10 days.

Approved March 3 by the House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee, it next goes to the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee. It has no Senate companion.

Although teachers are mandated to report suspected child abuse, a National Child Protection Training Center survey indicates that only 11 percent surveyed said they were willing to report colleagues they suspect of abuse, said Connie Skillingstad, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota. A paraprofessional reported Kyle’s abuse to school administration.

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