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Lawsuit claims teacher encouraged students to beat up child

Lawsuit claims teacher encouraged beatings of student – News 8 at 10

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Lawyers for an Indianapolis mother told News 8 on Wednesday that Indianapolis Public Schools repeatedly failed to protect a child from abuse in the classroom.

Attorneys Catherine Michael and Tammy Meyer says a child started second grade in the fall at George Washington Carver Montessori School No. 87. The child has a school-approved 504 plan because he has sensory sensitivities, an executive function disorder, and possible learning disabilities.

Within a few weeks, they say, the child complained to his mother he was enduring harassment and physical abuse in class, and did not want to go to school.

Michael and Meyer say the child’s mother had to force him to go to school. In the meantime, she repeatedly called for parent-teacher conferences in which she asked what was going on, even meeting with the vice principal.

“I think as parents, you don’t know what to believe, especially if you are being told none of that is true,” Michael said. “This parent, like many parents, initially reacts with, ‘Oh, you’re exaggerating’ and, in this situation, it was far worse than this mother ever envisioned.”

The turning point came in November. During a parent-teacher conference, the lawyers say, the child’s teacher, Julious Johnican, was about to show the mother a video of the classroom environment and instead accidentally showed a video of another child beating up the mother’s son. The mother’s lawyers subsequently obtained the video via the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). An adult, who the lawyers say is “Johnican,” can be heard in the video encouraging the beating.

“She asked the secretary to call the police immediately and to contact DCS,” she said. “It was only through the mother’s efforts that the police and DCS were contacted. The school did not take the initiative at that moment to do that on their own.”

Michael and Meyer say when DCS investigated, multiple school officials defended Johnican’s actions. According to court documents, a vice principal told DCS investigators that when she questioned a classroom aide about the incident, the aide replied, “They’re bad kids, that’s what you do.”

The attorneys also quoted DCS officials as saying the director of human resources for Indianapolis Public Schools indicated “he had no empathy for (the child) getting physically attacked.”

State law requires all teachers and school staff to immediately report any instances of child abuse or neglect. Failure to do so is a Class B misdemeanor.

“So the question then arises as to, is IPS not training their employees appropriately?” Michael asked. “Or even worse yet, are they allowing people who see abuse, condone it, simply not to report it? I think that falls squarely in the lap of the prosecutor’s office.”

The mother has since pulled her son out of the school and begun homeschooling him. According to court documents, he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is seeing a counselor at least once a week. The child’s mother filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages on Tuesday. Meyer said the lawsuit ultimately is about seeking justice for the child.

“It’s horrific that this happened to him,” she said. “It’s horrific that it was caught on tape. It’s horrific that nobody has been prosecuted for it yet. Hopefully, by filing this lawsuit, we can get some sort of justice for the family.”

No criminal charges have been filed in connection to the case. A spokesperson for the Marion County prosecutor’s office says it has not received an investigation from law enforcement into the matter, but has asked IPS for more information.

IPS officials did not return News 8’s request for comment until after a reports on the lawsuit aired at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday on WISH-TV.


“IPS does not tolerate the type of behavior alleged in the complaint and takes reports of potential abuse and neglect seriously. When IPS learned of the teacher’s conduct, the Department of Child Services (DCS) was immediately notified, and the teacher was removed from the classroom and suspended. The teacher had no further contact with students and is no longer employed by IPS. 

  • IPS was not aware of any fights encouraged or sanctioned by this or any other teacher from the student’s parents or otherwise, until the parent emailed the principal at 6:58 p.m. Oct. 30.
  • The principal first viewed this email early morning the next day (Oct 31), and immediately contacted DCS and IPS Human Resources.
  • The teacher was immediately removed from the building and never returned to the classroom.
  • The teacher was interviewed by Human Resources on November 2 as part of its investigation into the matter. The employee resigned during that meeting before IPS could initiate termination proceedings, which the district was prepared to do based on the information received from the internal investigation. 

Because this matter is the subject of pending litigation, it is inappropriate to comment further on our investigation of this matter.”

Indianapolis Public Schools