ROUND ROCK—-The saga continues as the Round Rock ISD School Board refused to listen to a mother in a school board meeting and physically attempted to prevent her from sharing her story with the media.
The issue at hand: Tatiana Alfano’s 13-year-old special needs son, Quintin, was shoved into a brick wall by a Vice Principal at GOALS learning center, which is the self-contained school for special education students in 6th-12th grade at RRISD.
Quintin was pinned to the floor by teachers where he struggled for several minutes and can be heard in the surveillance video screaming, “I hate it here!”
Round Rock ISD claims Quintin “fell down and hit his head.”
Tatiana first attempted to work with the district to handle the situation—where she’s received little to no support. She then filed reports against the vice principal, Jacob Thomas, with the Round Rock Police Department.
Since then, she has said nothing has happened.
At the Round Rock ISD School Board meeting Thursday evening, Tatiana publicly approached the School Board and Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez about the situation.
“Round Rock ISD has a dangerous, misinformed and systemic culture of abuse,” said Tatiana.
She highlighted the trauma induced by restraining a special needs child against their will, citing federal guidelines on the matter.
“My son is owed an apology after being thrown into a wall,” ended Tatiana.
At this point, Trustee Danielle Weston moved to allow the mother more time than the two allotted minutes to finish her statement. None of the school board members present (pro-parent trustee Mary Bone was absent) seconded her motion and the mother’s microphone was silenced.
Weston told Texas Scorecard, “Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, no other trustee seconded my motion, and so rather than turning the temperature down on this situation, my colleagues chose to turn the temperature up.”
“The superintendent was made aware of what happened with Quintin and last night would have been the perfect opportunity for the school district to display some humility, some compassion—to at least appear apologetic, and they declined the opportunity and did none of those things he could have,” Tatiana told Texas Scorecard. “He could have apologized on behalf of Round Rock ISD to Quintin and instead they chose not to.”
After Tatiana was disallowed from finishing her statement to the board, she approached the local media present at the meeting.
“She goes immediately over to the news reporter which… had a live camera filming everything to finish her statement,” local parent Jennifer White explained to Texas Scorecard. “As she started speaking… [Round Rock ISD Board President] Amber Feller leaves the dais to go immediately, directly in between the camera and this mother, Tatiana, and literally put her back to block the camera from viewing this woman.”
According to White, Feller requested to speak to Tatiana and she responded saying she would speak with Feller when she was done speaking to the media. “And she [Feller] kept standing there. ‘I would like to speak to you,’ she said again.”
“She wanted to stop and silence this mother.”
Tatiana said she had already approached the Round Rock Police Department, Child Protective Services, and Superintendent Azaiez prior to the school board meeting.
“The Round Rock Police Department took a report. They referred the report to the school resource officer to complete the investigation. And then it was done. It was over with, they never called me back. They never followed up. They did nothing.”
She then tried Child Protective Services.
“They did an investigation and they ruled out child abuse based on the definition of child abuse. Because nothing was broken or bleeding, it didn’t qualify as abuse.”
Through her attorney, Tatiana was able to obtain the surveillance video of the incident, and then posted it online and sent it to Superintendent Azaiez.
The same day, “Dr. Azaiez sent me back an email saying our lawyers will be in contact,” explained Tatiana. “And I got a phone call at five o’clock in the evening from my attorney saying that the school district attorney had called him and the school district was pissing mad about the video that I had posted exposing what the school district has done. And they were prepared to offer me $10,000 If I take the video down from everywhere and sign an NDA.”
Michael Holum of Advocacy Behavior Consulting, a special education advocate for special needs children and their parents, spoke with Tatiana and Texas Scorecard on the matter.
“They’re using restraint as a behavior management tool, and that just absolutely violates civil rights,” said Holum. “Now, because the employees did that inside of a special education classroom, there’s an enhancement in statutes that rises it to a level three felony in the state of Texas.”
“Those enhancements are there for if somebody does injury to the elderly or the disabled,” explained Holum. “The only thing you have to prove in that element is, did the actors or the suspects have prior knowledge of them being elderly or being disabled?”
Since Quintin is in a Special Education school, this would be simple to prove.
Holum said the situation in Round Rock ISD is a classic coverup between the school district and the local police department.
“It’s actually an oppression, it’s an official oppression. Because I mean, those educators should be subjected to the law just like everybody else. They’re qualified immunity goes out the road when they commit a criminal offense,” said Holum. “There’s a reason that NDA wasn’t just going to be for the disclosure of that video. It was going to be having [Tatiana] sign away, forever, any civil rights.”
After reviewing the video, Holum told Texas Scorecard, “There is no emergency documented on the video that exists that would justify the physical handling of the student in such a vicious manner.”
“Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI), a training taught in schools to teach de-escalation strategies and to conduct restraints in emergency situations safely, does not teach grabbing children by the necks and throwing them against solid objects (walls),” he added.
Additionally, Holum says Texas statutes prevent teachers from disallowing students to leave the cool-down room (where Quintin was thrown into in the video and then stopped from leaving) and he raises concerns that the RRISD cool-down room is both too small, according to statutory standards, and that the surveillance camera cannot see the entirety of the room as prescribed by law.
Jacob Thomas, the Vice Principal, has been placed on administrative leave but still works for the district at this time.
The full video can be found here.
A district spokesperson offered the following statements:
Regarding yesterday’s board meeting, President Feller recessed the meeting for five minutes to restore decorum after Ms. Alfano refused to end her comments when her time expired. She then went to speak to Ms. Alfano during the recess to ask for a copy of her comments to distribute to the board since Ms. Alfano was not able to finish them. She also planned to make sure Ms. Alfano knew about the district’s grievance process. Some in the crowd seemed to construe that action as President Feller attempting to obstruct Ms. Alfano from reading her statement to the KXAN camera. That is not the case. Obviously, Ms. Alfano could give her statement to KXAN at any time. However, President Feller only had the time during the recess to speak to Ms. Alfano. As the crowd shouted at President Feller, she ultimately stopped trying to have a conversation with Ms. Alfano, at which time she continued reading her statement to the camera. The board has the right to set limits on time for public comments so that the business of the board can be accomplished. Every speaker tonight had two minutes and the board does not arbitrarily extend one speaker’s time based on the subject matter.
Texas Scorecard has contacted the Round Rock ISD Police Department, and the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office for comments. None responded prior to publication.
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