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RACINE UNIFIED

RUSD student's mom wants action against ex-employee who injured him

Cassandra Matovich and Major Bennett

Cassandra Matovich poses with her son, Major Bennett, who is 9 years old.

RACINE — A man who worked for the Racine Unified School District is no longer employed with the district after he allegedly, while trying to stop a student suffering an episode brought on by mental illness, left marks on a student’s wrist that lasted for weeks.

Julian Thomas Elementary School

Julian Thomas Elementary School, pictured here, was the Fifth Ward School when it was built in 1856 and opened a year later.

Cassandra Matovich checks in with her 9-year-old son, Major Bennett, every day while he attends Julian Thomas Elementary. He suffers from severe anxiety.

She said he cannot stop himself from worrying about his mother and if she is safe, even when he has no reason to believe she’s in danger. This, Matovich said, is a result of prior abusive relationships she found herself in as well as recent losses of several family members.

On Dec. 2, Matovich came home to find her son in the backyard during the school day, saying he was hiding from the principal, which she said was not all too surprising. When Major’s anxiety acts up, he’s been known to flee to their home, which is near the school. But what was concerning to Matovich was that Major was screaming.

Major Bennett

Major Bennett poses for a photo before he goes to school at Julian Thomas Elementary.

“I just pulled up and see my son scared for his life, standing behind the tree because he couldn’t get into the house,” Matovich said. “That picture will replay in my mind of him standing behind that tree screaming.”

Major was crying, screaming over and over: “’This man tried to break my arms! Mom, this man tried to break my arm!’”

After an incident upset Major at school, he tried to leave the room. This is when the staff member tried to stop him, which RUSD confirmed.

“The District takes this type of situation very seriously,” RUSD Spokesperson Stacy Tapp said in email. “Working with the family, we investigated and took appropriate action. The parent has advised us that she is satisfied with the measures we’ve taken. The staff member is no longer an employee of the district.”

Matovich told The Journal Times she is not fully satisfied.

The restraint used, according to Matovich, left marks on her son’s wrist for weeks, and has left him feeling even more anxious and depressed. She said “every day is a battle” getting Major to return to school.

According to report published in August 2020 in the journal BMC Public Health: “Unintentional injuries are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children of all ages. Besides the immediate consequences for the child and its family, unintentional injuries constitute a major impact on health care and society in terms of hospitalization, emergency care visits and residual disabilities. Prevention strategies requires identification of at-risk groups. There is an unequal distribution in injury prevalence related to socioeconomic status but also with respect to gender. Moreover, child behavior and associated psychiatric disorders have been brought to light as risk factors for unintentional injuries in children and adolescents.”

Matovich plans to pursue legal action against the now-former staff member who was involved in the incident.

“If I can be a voice for any of these other children that are out there, then that’s what I want to be, because no child should have to go to school and be afraid of the teacher,” Matovich said. “I mean, there are so many kids that deal with so many things outside of school, in their home by being physically and mentally abused. They shouldn’t have to go to somewhere, that they’re supposed to get an education and be protected and to be hurt physically and emotionally as well.”

'The Guardian' reports a surge in COVID-19 infections has led some school districts in the United States to close their doors once again. Rising pediatric cases of COVID-19 have convinced officials in Maryland, New Mexico, New Jersey and New York to return to remote learning.

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