When 7-year-old Amaria Clark got off the school bus on September 29, her mother noticed the girl was guarding her left arm as she disembarked. Inspecting her adopted foster child’s arm, Adah Clark noticed it was swollen, with red marks where Amaria and other children said a teacher had grabbed her by the wrist and spun her around to scold her as she attempted to board the bus to go home.
“When my child gets off the bus, other children were all around me, telling me what happened. It didn’t make sense, but by the time I got to Amaria, her arms told it all,” Clark tells New Times.
Clark took Amaria to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital’s urgent-care unit, where she reported the incident to the Miami-Dade County Police Department (MDPD). Officers who arrived to take Clark’s report observed red marks on Amaria’s hands and wrists and attached photos to a police report. (The document is embedded at the end of this article.)
“Once the doctor came back and had to wrap her little wrist, I just broke. She went from doing cartwheels up and down to now having to rest her hand on a pillow because it hurt,” Clark says.
Clark reported the incident and the teacher to Amaria’s school, Airbase K-8 Center in Homestead. According to Amaria and her older brother, who witnessed the event from inside the school bus, as Amaria, who is Black, was stepping onto the bus, the teacher, an older white woman and a 45-year veteran of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), forcibly grabbed the girl’s wrist and pulled her down the bus steps, accusing her of stealing a phone. The teacher’s name has been redacted from documents.
Attorneys for the Clarks, Rawsi Williams and Frank Allen, say they’ve sent the Miami-Dade school board notice of their intent to sue and are waiting the mandatory six months before proceeding in circuit court. The attorneys’ letter cites numerous claims against MDCPS, including violations of Amaria’s due-process rights and her rights to equal treatment as a child with developmental issues, assault and battery, and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Speaking to New Times this week by phone, the 7-year-old says the teacher was mean to her and other children in her class, often touching them forcefully.
“She grabbed my arm on the bus, grabbed it very hard. I guess she was mad at me for stealing a phone but it wasn’t true,” Amaria says.
Clark had previously reported the teacher to the school for allegedly bullying her daughter and claiming that the girl, who is developmentally delayed and has previously been on Individual Education Plans for children who have different needs, acts “impulsive” and “like an animal.” Clark claimed the teacher would not allow Amaria to go to the bathroom because she claimed the child was lying about needing to go, despite the fact that Amaria has been seeing a urologist for medical care for four years.
At the time the teacher pulled Amaria off the bus, the girl wasn’t even her student, as Adah Clark had recently petitioned Airbase K-8 administrators to request that Amaria be transferred to a different classroom.
MDCPS tells New Times via email they investigated Adah Clark’s claims and found no reason to discipline the teacher.
“These are serious allegations that were thoroughly investigated as soon as they were first reported. The investigation was concluded with a finding of no probable cause,” MDCPS spokesperson Jaqueline Calzadilla tells New Times. “The teacher has been employed with the District for 45 years with no prior disciplinary action.”
Reached via phone on Thursday, an employee for Airbase K-8 said the school’s principal, Alonza Pendergrass, was unavailable. Pendergrass did not respond to an email from New Times seeking comment.
Now Amaria is in a new school, which she says she likes because she’s allowed to use the bathroom. But her mother isn’t done fighting. On Thursday, Adah Clark announced at a press conference her intent to sue the school board. She says she wants to see the teacher, principal, and assistant principal held responsible for what happened.
“I have a good village behind me, and that includes my attorneys. It’s rough, it’s hard, but we can do it. We just want justice,” Clark contends.
Courtesy of Rawsi Williams Law Group