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Atlanta Teacher Charged After Hanging Autistic Child From Hook in Classroom

© Cali4beachEmpty desks in a classroom
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A former elementary school paraprofessional in the Atlanta area must report to jail by 6:00 on Friday evening after being charged with reckless endangerment for hanging a five-year-old student by his belt from a classroom blackboard.

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Antonio Cammon was fired after the May 5 incident, which took place at Shoal Creek Elementary School in Conyers, Georgia.

The principal of Shoal Creek, Tiwony Tony, said he came to the classroom after hearing screams. "Mr. Cammon was away from the student and the student was hanging by himself," Tony said. "If it was an accident or unintentional, he would have taken him down and I would not have seen him hanging on the hook."

Jackie Patterson, Cammon’s attorney, says that the situation was an accident, and that Cammon was hoisting the child to calm him down and inadvertently hooked the child’s pants on the chalkboard.

"When [Cammon] lifted that child, there was a hook behind the child and he accidentally got caught on that hook," Patterson claimed.

The accused’s lawyer was quoted on Atlanta television saying that he was "ecstatic" about the judge’s decision to level a misdemeanor charge, because "the most important thing is that he’s not facing felony cruelty to a child [charges], which carries 10 years in prison."

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Another teacher and a paraprofessional who witnessed the incident stood trial for failure to report child abuse, but the judge decided there was not enough evidence to charge either of them.

The second paraprofessional, Jacklyn Brownwell, said that the student, who has autism, was throwing a chair during a tantrum, frightening some of the other students. Brownell said that she was calming the other children when she saw Cammon lift the child up, but claimed that she did not see him hung on the chalkboard.

Although she was also fired, Brownwell said she is "happy that justice prevailed, and I just have God to thank for that."

Tiffany Thomas, the teacher present, was also fired.

Tracy Brown, the child’s grandmother, said that she was "outraged" by the court’s decision, declaring that the consequences for the mistreatment of her grandchild don’t match the seriousness of Cammon’s behavior.

"I don’t understand it," Brown said "…now who’s going to help my grandbaby get through all of this? Who? Ya’ll failed him."

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Brown stressed that accredited teachers should know how to handle students with learning disabilities. "He was kicking and screaming and hollering…. He’s a special needs student.  His teacher is supposed to be trained in how to redirect my grandson," she said. 

Brown said that Richard Autry, the school superintendent, called her and said, "their [the fired personnel] actions were unacceptable, and they would no longer be able to teach in Rockdale County."

"How can he pick my grandson up and put him up against the board? How is that right? If that happened to your kid, how would you feel?"

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