non-verbal," said Couture. "He was crying
to himself as if in pain. I examined him,
and discovered that his buttocks were red
and swollen. There were also red marks
on the back of his legs down to the knees,
on his right arm, and face. After a lengthy
question and answer period, I knew something had happened at school involving a
man and a bus.
"I learned what happened through witnesses," continued Couture. "I called
Williamson that night but was unable to
reach him until the next morning. He did
not deny spanking Ramon. He said the
reason for Ramon's misbehavior was the
lack of a strong male influence.
"That same morning I reported the incident to Cecil Willis, superintendent of
the New Caney Independent School District (NCISD). Willis appointed Cecil
Wilburn to investigate my complaint. Wil-
burn called me a few days later and told
me I had overreacted.
"For four days after the incident,
Ramon did not eat or sleep. Any progress
he had made since January was virtually
wiped out. I took Ramon to his physician
when he continued having insomnia. The
doctor prescribed phenobarbital and told
me to remain very close to him.
"I know Ramon's only hope for a
normal life is through education. Incidents
of this kind only set him back. If there
was ever a chance of this happening again,
I would have to remove him from school.
To avoid this, I continue my fight,"
Getting no relief from the investigation,
Couture wrote a letter to Willis demanding
parents of special education students have
the right to deny corporal punishment.
She requested that Williamson have no
further contact with Ramon, and that
Williamson be dismissed as principal.
According to Couture, there is a previous lawsuit pending against Williamson
for allegedly breaking a child's arm.
"This is why I added the third demand,
though the first two were the most important," she said.
The New Caney ISD School Board met
on April 24 to hear Couture's charges and
voted to deny all her demands.
"The school and administrative officials
portrayed me as a hysterical female out to
'get' the school and district. My only goal
was to protect the rights of my child and
other children like him," said Couture.
Couture's case was heard before the
Texas Education Authority (TEA) May 24,
Richard Sedgeley, attorney for the
school district, claimed that no excessive
force had been used on the child.
"The child is receiving every special
education benefit the law allows," he said.
"He is receiving the best education possible, and has been in a very strict environment."
Sedgeley seemed more interested in
Couture's lifestyle than in the damage
done to Ramon. She was asked "Do you
and Ramon live alone?" "Who cares for
Ramon while you work?" and "What
time do you get home?"
The only question asked by Sedgeley
that pertained to the beating was "Has
Ramon sustained any permanent physical
or mental injury from the paddling?"
The only witness called, other than
Couture, was Ramon's teacher, Jean
Stockton. Stockton serves on a committee
investigating policy changes in the corporal punishment guidelines regarding special
"Our preliminary recommendations
are that no child be paddled without parental permission, no child under six be
paddled, and corporal punishment be used
only as a last resort," she said.
"I have been a special education teacher for 11 years, and have never used corporal punishment," she added.
"It is the recommendation of this
court," stated presiding judge Michael H.
Driscoll, "that the corporal punishment
policy be changed in reference to special
education students. I will hold this court
open until September, 1979. If at that time
Special ed teacher
JEAN STOCKTON (1)
works with four year
old RAMON (r) while
his mother BARBARA
no change has been implemented\ this
court will reconvene.
"It is also the opinion of this court that
Williamson did not violate any existing
policy. Therefore, I recommend that the
issue concerning his dismissal be dropped,"
"I am happy with the decision," said
Couture. "My major concern was the existing policy. It is unfortunate that children
outside of the special education program
will not have the same protection.
"I suggest that parents in New Caney
request speech therapy for their children.
This will put them in the special education
program, and will protect them from
Melanie Mayeaux was a journalism student at College of the Mainland and will
attend Texas Tech in the fall.
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