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Shocking video shows school worker punching autistic boy after racial remark

The Washington Post The Washington Post 7/04/2016 Peter Holley

A Brooklyn father says he’s suing after viewing newly released video footage that shows a school official punching his autistic son in the head.

Anatoly Veltman Sr. is seeking $5 million in damages over the 2014 incident at Public School 225 in Brighton Beach, where a paraprofessional trained to work with special-needs students struck then-11-year-old Anatoly Veltman Jr.

Milton Parker was initially charged with felony assault for striking the boy in the school cafeteria. Parker pleaded guilty last year to a lesser charge — misdemeanor assault — and was required to attend anger management classes, according to WNBC.

The elder Veltman told The Washington Post that he’s still shocked that a veteran paraprofessional like Parker could have assaulted his child.

“I am extremely sad that anyone at all — let alone a paraprofessional at the school — can behave in this manner with a child, especially a special-needs child,” Veltman said. “If he could wind up for a punch like that, the man has big issues.”

Parker — a 26-year veteran of the New York City Department of Education — has since retired and is now collecting a pension. Sanford Rubenstein, an attorney representing the Veltman family, told The Post that it’s “unacceptable for a paraprofessional working in our schools to assault an 11-year-old, autistic child.”

And, he added, the incident raises another question, too: “Should public employees who are found guilty or plead guilty to crimes get their pensions?”

Anatoly Veltman Jr., seen in this family photo, was assaulted by a school worker in 2014. © Courtesy of Anatoly Veltman Sr. Anatoly Veltman Jr., seen in this family photo, was assaulted by a school worker in 2014.

Rubenstein said it took a year of pressure and a court order for the Department of Education to release the video.

The claim filed by Rubenstein against New York City, the Department of Education and Parker accuses the city of of failing to “protect and supervise” Anatoly and of being “negligent and reckless and careless.”

The claim states that “in failing to properly supervise their employees; in failing to prevent the aforesaid incident; in failing to have proper security; in failing to monitor the activities on said premises; in failing to monitor the activities of children on said premises; in failing to have properly trained personnel; in negligently hiring personnel; in failing to properly screen personnel; in retaining improper personnel; in failing to properly supervise the students; in failing to timely advise the infant’s father of the true facts and circumstances of the incident, respondents were further negligent by their outrageous conduct both during and after the incident.”

School records cited by the New York Daily News suggest the incident began when Anatoly — who is now 13, but has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old — told Parker: “This table is for whites only.”

Parker, who is black, was standing near the child in the lunchroom at the time, video footage reveals.

Moments later, the boy, who is sitting down, appears to swing at Parker, who is standing.

The footage shows Parker lean back slightly before unleashing a downward blow that appears to hit Anatoly in the head, prompting the boy to grab his face in apparent pain.

Parker told the New York Daily News that the punch was a reflexive response to being hit first. The video, he said, proves as much.

“Who gets hit and doesn’t respond?” Parker said to the newspaper. “The kid punched me in the eye first and as a reflex he got hit back.”

“I knew it was on camera,” the 59-year-old added. “If it was intentional, I would have taken him to another room and beaten the snot out of him.”

Veltman told The Post that after his son was struck, he was called to the emergency room at Coney Island Hospital. He described seeing a “a big black blue bump above his eye, which looked awful.”

The boy suffered a concussion during the August 2014 incident, but his father says his focus is now bigger than his son’s health.

The real questions, he said, are why a paraprofessional would resort to violence — and why other professionals at the scene allow it to occur.

A second paraprofessional claims she didn’t see the incident, according to court documents cited by the Daily News.

Rubenstein, the Veltman family’s attorney, told The Post that the woman is lying and that the video offers proof she witnessed the entire episode.

“She was the one assigned to the child,” Rubenstein said. “When she was interviewed by the Department of Education, she said she didn’t see anything. If you look at the video, you clearly see she was looking straight at the paraprofessional as he punched the young man.”

“We have the blue wall of silence,” he added, referring to the practice among some police officers to close ranks, “and now we have the chalkboard of silence.”

Veltman said he is saddened by the entire incident, but considers the female paraprofessional’s behavior after the punch was thrown even more disturbing because, he said, she was assigned to care for his son.

“I’m extremely upset by the video of her reaction,” he said. “These people have been hired to come into work with special needs children and they appear to have no concept of how to work with special-needs children.”

He told The Post that in the emergency room he also found a “huge black and blue bruise” under the boy’s right arm. He suspects that his son’s paraprofessional — who was standing beside Parker during the incident — may have forcefully yanked on the boy’s arm before or after the punch, resulting in the painful discoloration. He thinks his son may have lashed out at Parker initially because he was “agitated” after being handled roughly.

Parker told the Daily News that he can’t afford a lawyer and he has no assets for the Veltman family to seize.

“My whole life was destroyed because of this one incident,” he told the paper.

Veltman Sr. said his son is still struggling with the assault as well.

“My son, now even when we pass by the school, he runs away from me,” he told WNBC. “He’s afraid of the school building since what happened to him.”

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