Mother of Rancho Cordova student with autism alleges teacher restrained and struck her son

Daniel Hunt/

A Rancho Cordova parent has accused a teacher of using an “illegal restraint” on her 5-year-old nonverbal autistic son earlier this month and physically assaulting him in the process.

Ebone McNeal said in a Facebook post Thursday that she was notified her son had been placed in a restraint and “struck across the face” by a teacher. She said was alerted to the incident by the superintendent after an aide reported it two days later.

“Nothing was immediately reported as required by law,” McNeal said in a social media post. “So my son was subjected to being around this abuser for multiple day’s (sic) after she harmed him.”

The Folsom Cordova Unified School District said in a statement emailed to The Sacramento Bee that the incident was under investigation.

“We want the family and the community to know that we are deeply concerned by the allegations brought forth and that we want to stay in close communication with the family,” said Angela Griffin, a spokesperson for the district. “Our concern is for their son to have a safe and welcoming learning environment where he can thrive. FCUSD takes student safety very seriously and does not tolerate the type of alleged conduct that has been reported.”

McNeal said she met with district and school officials but was provided with little information of the incident during the meeting.

“Nobody gave me any information really,” she said on social media. “I emailed and requested a copy of reports from the incident and got no response. Now the lawyer from the school district is calling me asking me to sit down.”

Griffin said the district received an “alarming report” on Sept. 13 and immediately put the teacher on administrative leave. An investigation is underway but, since it is a personnel matter, the district said it was limited on the details it would release.

District officials, as well as the student’s individualized education program, or IEP, team, met with the family on Sept. 15 “to formulate a plan for the student’s classroom placement and additional supports to address their well-being,” she added.

In an interview with The Bee, McNeal said she was told that the teacher was “holding him down on the ground kind of like a bear hug.”

She said school officials did not explain the circumstances leading up to the confrontation.

McNeal held a news conference outside Williamson Elementary School in Rancho Cordova on Monday morning, demanding the teacher be fired.

“My main concern is that she gets arrested and charged, and fired from the school district and never works with children again,” she said.

Her son, a kindergartner, is recovering from the incident, she said.

“I can’t physically ask him, so I’m just taking his communication cues and making sure he’s OK,” McNeal said. “I don’t know the internal turmoil he’s going through having to be around her those last few days.”

Restraints are expressly prohibited in California schools unless the student poses an imminent danger to themselves or others. Even in that case, school staff are not permitted to put pressure on a student’s back, put their body weight on them or use any kind of tool that could restrict the student’s breathing, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education.

In 2018, a 13-year-old boy died after being held in a prone restraint by school staff for more than an hour. School officials at Guiding Hands School in El Dorado Hills were later indicted by a grand jury and charged with involuntary manslaughter by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.

The El Dorado Hills school permanently closed following the boy’s death.