Milton elementary principal on leave amidst reports of inappropriate conduct

Reports: Harmony Elementary principal physically restrained autistic child

Published On: Mar 05 2014 09:37:58 PM CST
MILTON, Wis. -

Harmony Elementary School Principal Jeanne Smith is on paid administrative leave following reports she may have inappropriately restrained a child with special needs.

Josh Hooker said he moved his family to the Milton School District after hearing how well they handled children with autism. His 7-year-old son is high functioning, but occasionally has meltdowns in class.

“It's been a wonderful experience up until this point,” Hooker said.

Hooker said about two weeks ago, he was told his son had to be restrained and taken to the “safe room” at school. Hooker said being isolated in a quiet place is an effective way to calm his son down when he is experiencing a meltdown.

Hooker said what he wasn’t told is his son may have been restrained inappropriately by Smith.

“We were told that the people that were watching him before the principal got involved said he was pretty much de-escalated,” Hooker said, “And they were about to remove him back to the special education room when she decided to take over and do what she did.”

Janesville police Lt. Keith Lawver said the district’s superintendent notified him on Feb. 19 of an incident that took place at Harmony. Lawver said two aides reported to district administration there was some physical restraint on Smith’s part that they weren’t sure was appropriate.

A report on the incident is not yet public.

Lawver said Janesville police investigated the report and determined there was not probable cause to charge Smith with a crime, like battery or battery to a child.

“You have to reach a certain level to reach probable cause that a crime was committed, and that's the standard we go by, that's what we consider, and it just wasn't there,” Lawver said.

District administrator Tim Schigur said Smith is on administrative leave until the district’s investigation is complete. He couldn’t say when she was put on leave.

“I hope that people refrain from passing judgment because we don't have the facts yet because the investigation is just beginning,” Schigur said.

Schigur said faculty and staff are all trained to work with any student at any level of ability.

“We value student safety above everything else, and we are following proper protocol and our policies and procedures,” Schigur said.

Hooker said he’s prepared to seek out legal counsel if Smith is not disciplined and removed from his son’s school.

“It just makes me wonder how many other kids this has happened to that nobody has said anything about,” Hooker said.