Education

Parents say Modesto teacher attacked their son

Parents allege Modesto student attacked by teacher

Parents of a Marshall Elementary School student allege that their child was attacked by a Modesto City Schools teacher. The family, along with an attorney and the head of the Stanislaus County NAACP, talked about the case. (Joan Barnett Lee/jlee@m
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Parents of a Marshall Elementary School student allege that their child was attacked by a Modesto City Schools teacher. The family, along with an attorney and the head of the Stanislaus County NAACP, talked about the case. (Joan Barnett Lee/jlee@m

A Modesto family whose 8-year-old son was grabbed by his teacher, hard enough to scratch his back through his shirt, is speaking publicly about the incident, which was investigated by Modesto police as well as Modesto City Schools.

After the March 21 incident, third-grade teacher Prospero C. Palmerin was placed on paid leave for five weeks and then returned to work. He continues to teach at James Marshall Elementary School. The boy, whose name The Bee agreed to not reveal because he is a minor, was taken out of school by his parents when the teacher returned and this year is attending a different Modesto City Schools campus.

At a meeting of Advocates for Justice, beside representatives of the NAACP and We R LaRaza, parents Lee and Sabrina Hill stood before media cameras to tell their son’s story. Since the incident, the child has had nightmares and has to attend a different school where he knows no one, his mother said.

“He is a child. He shouldn’t be in fear of any adult, especially somebody who is supposed to educate him and, basically, show him how to be a person. He’s a mentor, and he really failed him,” Sabrina Hill said. “It’s not fair that he is being punished for something that he didn’t do wrong.”

It’s not fair that he is being punished for something that he didn’t do wrong.

Sabrina Hill

The day it happened, the principal told Lee Hill there would be an investigation and the teacher would be put on leave. “I didn’t know it was going to be paid leave or that he’d come back and my son would have to leave,” Lee Hill said.

The Hills shared photos showing their son with a small, raised scratch on his back and a rip in the shirt at the underarm seam. They said multiple children in the class told of hearing the shirt rip and seeing the teacher grab their son in anger.

The Modesto Police Department said they investigated the incident and twice recommended to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office that misdemeanor charges be filed against Palmerin, but no charges had been filed. The D.A.’s Office did not return a Bee request for comment Monday afternoon.

An investigation by the school district said the child told yard duty supervisors after the incident that he had been hit on the back of the head, pushed, pulled and grabbed. The district conclusions state that the 8-year-old had stayed behind as the class lined up for lunch, possibly to try to take Pokémon cards in the teacher’s desk, and that Palmerin “grabbed (the boy) by the shoulder to escort him out of the classroom.”

“The district’s investigation revealed that Mr. Palmerin’s conduct was not consistent with professional behavior expected of district employees,” the report says, telling the Hills, “If (the boy) does return to the district, we will ensure Mr. Palmerin will not engage in similar conduct toward (the boy).”

The district’s investigation revealed that Mr. Palmerin’s conduct was not consistent with professional behavior expected of district employees.

Modesto City Schools

On Monday, the district released a statement saying it investigates allegations of misconduct and takes corrective action as appropriate. “It is common to place an employee on paid administrative leave while conducting an investigation. Mr. Palmerin was on leave and is currently a 3rd grade teacher at Marshall Elementary for the 2016-2017 school year.

“The police have not provided us with information regarding the alleged misdemeanor charge. However, we remain committed to cooperating with law enforcement. The statement by the parent, and press release by the Advocates for Justice, is based on the parent’s perspective. We communicated with the student’s parents throughout the investigation process.

“Student safety is our top priority and we are committed to working with our families to ensure the educational, social and emotional well-being of our students,” the statement says.

Palmerin, 61, holds a multisubject teaching credential customary for elementary grades, originally issued in September 1990, as well as a bilingual certificate. There are no adverse actions listed among his records in California Commission on Teacher Credentialing listings.

Nan Austin: 209-578-2339, @NanAustin

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