APS paraprofessionals caught on camera allegedly abusing child - WNEM TV 5

APS paraprofessionals caught on camera allegedly abusing special needs child

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Atlanta police arrested Atlanta Public Schools paraprofessional Alger Shafter Coleman III and charged him with cruelty to children in the first degree. The charge states the abuse was malicious and caused the child excessive pain.

Coleman was caught on camera allegedly abusing a special needs child in his care at Harper-Archer Middle School on two different occasions.

A teacher we are calling "Dr. J" asked us not to reveal her identity. She was the teacher in charge of the classroom. She set up the camera after several complaints about Coleman and paraprofessional Keisha Smith's unprofessional behavior in the classroom.

"My purpose for setting up the camera was to definitively prove to the principal once and for all, this is what's going on in the classroom," said Dr. J. "Catching the act of child abuse was not something I expected."

Dr. J said she warned Principal Jermain Dawson during the first week of school about problems in her classroom.

"I had gone to the principal on three separate occasions," she said.

From Feb. 21 to Feb. 24, 2014, Smith's camera captured Coleman allegedly choking a child, then repeatedly striking that child. The video shows Coleman strike the child so hard, one time, that the blow knocked him out of his desk.

That child is Courtney Whaley's son.

"It was just devastating to me to see the video - for somebody to hurt my son like that," said Whaley.

Whaley said school officials never told her or the other child's mother, Sherry Cheely.

"I was never made aware of the situation. I found out through the Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS). The school hid everything from me," said Cheely.

Smith is caught on camera allegedly abusing Cheely's son. Dr. J said school officials didn't act on the abuse until after she called the police.

"The school only took action after I had gone to the police department and provided them with copies of the video to begin an investigation," said Dr. J. "The school never notified the police. The school never notified DFACS. I called and reported it to DFACS."

APS spokeswoman Kimberly Willis Green would not say why the incident wasn't reported to the police. She said Coleman no longer works for the district and that Smith has been transferred to another school.

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