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Court testimony centers on whether TPS employee followed training

A Toledo Public Schools teacher who trains staff members in crisis prevention testified Friday that a paraprofessional who broke a student's wrist after forcing him onto a school bus did not follow that training.

“We always teach that once a child is down on the ground, hands are off,” Deborah Kaiser told Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Stacy Cook.

On Thursday, Anthony Miller, 46, of the 2900 block of South Byrne Road entered an Alford plea — not admitting guilt — to endangering children, a third-degree felony for the Jan. 26 incident involving an 11-year-old boy at Robinson Achievement Academy, a school that specializes in children with behavioral issues.

Miller faces up to 36 months in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 22, but Judge Cook asked prosecutors and the defense to call the experts who would have testified at trial to explain the training Miller received and whether or not he followed that training.

The security video from the school bus shows Miller walking with the student toward the bus. All is well until the youngster starts veering away from the bus door. Miller touches his shoulder to guide him back, and the boy explodes in anger.

Moments later, Miller grabs the youth from behind, hauls him onto the bus where he lands facedown on the bus floor. When the child tries to take a swing at Miller, he screams at him, grabs his arm, and pulls it back, breaking his wrist.

The child goes silent then cries out in pain. Miller then leaves the bus, and the child can be seen and heard writhing in pain on a bus seat.

Ms. Kaiser said the problem that day began when Miller was asked to walk to the bus with the child alone. Staff members are instructed, she said, “When there's a child in crisis, always have another adult present with you.”

The child had been in a fight with another student earlier that afternoon, and staff believed he was calmed down enough to walk to the bus, Drew Wood, an assistant county prosecutor, told the court on Thursday.

Staff members also are trained to touch students only as a last resort, Ms. Kaiser said. Allowing children personal space and talking with them in a calm voice always is the first and best option, she said.

Defense attorney Jeff Simpson called Sabura Rashad, an administrator at the Universal Muslim Academy in Cincinnati, to the stand. She said she trains staff in crisis prevention.

Asked to sum up what she saw on the video, she said, “In my opinion, Mr. Miller attempted to use the [Crisis Prevention Institute] strategies that he had been trained to use to the best of his ability with the situation that was presented.”

Miller has been suspended without pay since the incident, but Mr. Wood said state law does not permit an individual convicted of a felony charge of endangering children to be employed as a paraprofessional at a school. Miller began working for TPS in 1999 and had no prior disciplinary issues, officials said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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