Gwinnett Schools employee accused of hitting child with autistism

A former Gwinnett County Public Schools employee faces simple battery charges for allegedly hitting a student.

The child's mother said the incident drastically changed her son's behavior and cost her family a significant chunk of money, but the accused's attorney said she disciplined the boy "in good faith."

Kim Steele's son Darien was 6 years old in 2019 when the Cooper Elementary School principal told his mother that a paraprofessional hit her son on the head.

He was born with a brain injury, and not long before the reported incident, he was diagnosed with autism.

"She snatched a milk carton, according to the substitute, she snatched it from him and hit him on the head," said Kim Steele, the child’s mother.

The school system said it recommended the employee's termination, but she resigned before they were able to act.

The boy's mother said he hasn't been the same since.

"He was uncontrollable until he got on medication which is an antipsychotic medication to control him, to calm him and it actually made him more sleepy," Steele said.

The Gwinnett County State Court case is set for next month but Steele said she's frustrated that the former employee will seek immunity.

"I think people who hit kids with special needs should be held accountable," she said.

"If it were me, I wouldn't have immunity. I wouldn't have an option. Having a special needs child and being in a classroom, there should be cameras," the mother said.

FOX 5 reached out to the accused's lawyer, who said his client "is innocent of the charge against her, and she looks forward to clearing her name and exonerating herself in the court process."

The attorney said she disciplined the boy in good faith, which he argues is protected under Georgia's Compilation of School Discipline Laws and Regulations. It reads:

"No principal or teacher who shall administer corporal punishment to a pupil or pupils...shall be held accountable or liable in any criminal or civil action...where the corporal punishment is...not excessive or unduly severe."

The accused's attorney said his client is a kind woman, facing a minor charge.

Steele said her actions have changed her son and hope the June case results in restitution.

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