By RYAN DUNN
and MAX FILBY
The parents of a second Riverdale student have alleged that teacher Barb Williams harmed their child, an attorney said Tuesday.
April and Bryce Blanton, of Forest, on Saturday filed a criminal complaint with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, claiming that Williams harmed their son a few years ago when the boy was a kindergartner, Cleveland attorney Dan Margolis said.
Last month, Williams was suspended by the school district after school surveillance footage showed her pushing and picking up another child, a 6-year-old, in a school hallway. She faces a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment in that incident.
In the complaint filed Saturday, Bryce Blanton said Williams grabbed his son by the arms and face, which resulted in bruising that Blanton originally thought might be from playing with other kids at school.
The Blanton boy was enrolled in Williams’ kindergarten class during the 2011-12 school year. He began disliking school and returned home with marks, Margolis said.
“He’s very unhappy. He suffers from a disability and the parents essentially have to force him to go to school each morning,” Margolis said.
Blanton said his son, now 8 years old, has autism. Williams was aware of the disability, Margolis said.
Since his year in kindergarten, Blanton said his son has been noticeably scared of Williams when passing her at school events.
“I know what fear looks like, and that was it,” Blanton said. “He loves to see his first-grade teacher, but he’s always scared when he sees Mrs. Williams.”
The family asked school officials to investigate alleged verbal bullying by Williams while their son was in her class, but their complaints to the district “fell on deaf ears,” Blanton said.
“The school paid no heed to their concerns,” Margolis said.
Blanton said he practically had to force his child onto the bus to go to school, and that he even threatened to remove him from Williams’ class if the alleged problems were not resolved.
Superintendent Eric Hoffman could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The Courier has requested a copy of Williams’ personnel file from the school district.
The Blanton boy told his doctor during a recent assessment that Williams caused the bruises, Margolis said. His parents then filed the criminal complaint, Margolis said.
“They’re able to realize that’s almost certainly what happened,” Margolis said.
Last month, school surveillance footage caught Williams pushing and picking up 6-year-old Ian Nelson. She was suspended by the school district as a result.
Williams has pleaded not guilty in Findlay Municipal Court to a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment.
Margolis also represents the Nelson family in its complaint against the teacher.
The Blanton family is requesting that the sheriff’s office conduct a full investigation, Margolis said.
He said he is doubtful that will happen, claiming investigators failed to properly inquire about other incidents involving Williams.
In a letter to county Prosecutor Mark Miller on Tuesday, Margolis went so far as to request a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate the two cases. Margolis has argued that the sheriff’s office is “tainted by a conflict of interest,” because Williams’ husband, Jim Williams, serves as a chaplain for the office.
Sheriff Michael Heldman dismissed the alleged conflict earlier this month, saying the deputy in charge of the investigation does not know Williams’ husband.
Heldman said Tuesday he was not aware of any additional reports that had been filed, but said the deputy in charge of the case likely spoke with all the families during his investigation.
“We talked to every family, all the names that were provided to us,” Heldman said. “Nobody wanted to file an additional report.”
The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office declined to make the Blanton complaint available to The Courier.