Group calls for grand jury investigation into alleged abuse at Antioch school

- A support group for victims of abuse is making calls for a grand jury investigation after a boy was allegedly abused last week at an Antioch school for students with special needs.

This follows the Jan. 6 arrest of Kamaljot Kaur, 26, after a video posted online a day earlier showed her allegedly striking a 9-year-old student at Tobinworld II at 2330 Country Hills Drive.

Kaur was charged Jan. 8 with misdemeanor child abuse. Another teacher's aide, 22-year-old Chad Corbin, was charged with failing to report an incident of child abuse as a mandatory reporter, prosecutors said.

Antioch Unified School District officials reported that the 9-year-old Oakland boy was not injured in the incident.

But that shouldn't be very reassuring, says Melanie Jula Sakoda, one of the founders of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The worst aspect of abuse isn't always the visible injuries, Sakoda said, "it's what it can do to a child's mind."

Sakoda's victim support group, which focuses on abuse at various institutions, is aiming to raise awareness of this case's seriousness and how it's potentially part of a larger problem.

Sakoda said that this case shouldn't be treated as separate from prior allegations of child abuse from years past at Tobinworld.

"We're concerned that there's a pattern ... and that not all the problems have been corrected," Sakoda said.

Among other cases, AdriAnne Pantell in 2014 filed a lawsuit against the same Antioch school for the alleged physical and emotional abuse of her then-8-year-old son while he attended the school in 2013.

According to that lawsuit, five staff members responded when the boy acted out by restraining him "first in an upright position, then violently kicking his feet from underneath him, causing him to fall to the
floor and sustain a bloody nose."

The Antioch Unified School District was named as well in that lawsuit. Tobinworld contracts with school districts throughout the East Bay.

Sakoda questioned today whether the districts Tobinworld contracts with are committed enough to ensuring child abuse is reported and followed up on.

"They need to be more on top of what's happening ... and proactive about complaints of abuse," she said.

Stephanie Anello, interim superintendent at Antioch Unified School District, issued a statement after the recent incident reporting that the district "takes all instances of student safety seriously."

"And (we) will ensure that appropriate and decisive steps are taken as determined by the outcome of the investigation," she said.

Kaur was fired from her post at Tobinworld. Police and state education officials are also investigating the school based on the recent incident.

With this incident being tied to a video, Sakoda said, "it was hard to deny that something terrifying was going on here."

"That video was absolutely appalling," Sakoda added.

There's not typically a video associated with these incidents, Sakoda said, but school officials need to take all claims of child abuse equally seriously.

Sakoda said this all points to a need for a grand jury investigation into why Tobinworld employees and officials have a poor record of complying with mandatory reporting laws.

To that end, Sakoda and other members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said they planned to file complaints today with grand juries in Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano counties.

Tobinworld Executive Director Judy Weber today said the school continues to operate with a conditional certification and would take "every step necessary" to ensure compliance with the California Department of
Education's requirements and strengthen training and enforcement of policies
and procedures.

Weber said the school had notified law enforcement and terminated Kaur and Corbin after learning of the videotaped incident on Jan. 5.

"Tobinworld remains committed to providing the best specialized education and support services available to all of our students," Weber said, describing the school's efforts to ensure students' safety and security as
"ongoing and resolute." 

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