A Brooklyn parent is pushing for the city to change the way it hires and trains paraprofessionals who work with special needs children after his autistic son was punched in the head by a worker.
Anatoly Veltman Sr. appeared with attorney Sanford Rubenstein Monday to announce he planned to sue the city for $5 million in damages after they saw the surveillance video of the brutal punch at a cafeteria table, which took over a year to obtain, they said.
Veltman said his son, also named Anatoly, had a concussion from the blow on Aug. 7, 2014, and when the father arrived at the emergency room, he saw a “big blue bruise above his eye and it was clear to me that he was punched with force.”
When he was told it was a paraprofessional who’d assaulted his son, “I wouldn’t believe it. It was an impossibility,” said Veltman.
“From the moment that the children are taken off the school bus and put back on the school bus, they are protected by these paraprofessionals one-on-one. That’s the type of attention my son needs,” said Veltman.
It was not the boy’s own paraprofessional who punched him, but Rubenstein said that the woman assigned to work with Anatoly also lied about the incident, saying she didn’t see the punch, even though video shows otherwise.
The worker, Milton Parker, was indicted on a felony assault charge in the incident, but pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor assault charge. He attended anger management and served probation in the matter, and retired shortly afterward and is collecting pension, according to Rubenstein.
The Brooklyn district attorney’s office said the boy’s parents had agreed to the plea deal. The Department of Education says Parker is not eligible for future employment with them.
In the video, Anatoly, who has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old, is seen reaching up to swing at Parker inside PS 225 in Brighton Beach during summer school, and the man immediately punches the boy in the head.
The Daily News, citing school records and an interview with Parker, reports Anatoly said to Parker, who is black, “This table is for whites only,” after Parker scolded the boy for spilling ice and throwing a napkin on the floor. The boy apologized for the comment, then punched the paraprofessional. That’s when Parker swung back.
“The kid punched me in the eye first and as a reflex he got hit back,” Parker, now 59, told The Daily News.
“I knew it was on camera,” he told the newspaper. “If it was intentional, I would have taken him to another room and beaten the snot out of him.”
Rubenstein said of Parker’s comments, “How can someone work for the Department of Education with that kind of mentality? Clearly the DOE needs to review their hiring procedures.”
NBC 4 New York was not able to immediately reach Parker Monday.
The trauma made Anatoly afraid of all school buildings, and Veltman feared his son would run away from school if he was forced back. He referred to the case of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic boy who ran away from his Queens school and later found dead.
So the boy is now undergoing home schooling, but it isn’t ideal, Veltman said.
“The education is not the same,” he said.
“It’s bad because school was his institution. They need structure, they need routines, and that was taken away from him,” said Veltman.
The father pleaded, “To people working with special-needs children, be compassionate. Figure out non-confrontational ways of dealing with them. These children don’t think the way we think, their perception is different, their reality is somewhere within them. You’ve got to understand that and do everything for their safety and hopefully their education.”