2nd grade teacher held ‘reprehensible fight club type of discipline’ in class: Lawsuit


A lawsuit alleges a teacher in Indiana orchestrated

A lawsuit alleges a teacher in Indiana orchestrated “fight club type” discipline in his second-grade classroom. (Still image from the video provided by the family’s lawyers)

A second-grade teacher in Indiana is accused in a lawsuit of orchestrating and encouraging a “reprehensible fight club type of discipline” in his class and filming it on his cellphone in a case that has prompted a criminal investigation.

The allegations began to surface last fall after the parents of the 7-year-old boy came home sad and upset, reporting abuse, bullying, and harassment in his second-grade classroom at George Washington Carver School No. 87 in Indianapolis, according to the complaint, filed in Marion County, Indiana.

The lawsuit alleges the boy had been beaten by other students as their teacher, recording at least one attack on his cellphone, watched and encouraged the fighting. The mother said the teacher and school officials dismissed her concerns when she brought up her son’s complaints. The mother only learned about the assaults when she saw a video of one attack when the boy’s teacher inadvertently pulled it up on his cellphone during a parent-teacher conference, court documents said.

“The mother is just in a state of devastation over the situation,” the family’s lawyer, Catherine Michael, told Law&Crime in an interview.

In a statement, Indiana Public Schools spokesperson Marc Ransford said the district “does not tolerate the type of behavior alleged in the complaint and takes reports of potential abuse and neglect seriously.”

“When IPS learned of the teacher’s conduct, the Department of Child Services (DCS) was immediately notified, and the teacher was removed from the classroom and suspended,” he said. “The teacher had no further contact with students and is no longer employed by IPS.”

A media representative from the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office told Law&Crime in an email on Thursday afternoon that prosecutors have referred the case to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, which opened an investigation.

The complaint names as defendants the Indiana Public Schools, Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, Principal Mary Kapcoe, Vice Principal Finae Rent, behavioral consultant Anthony Bigby, substitute teacher Pardeep Dahliwal, and teacher Julious Johnican.

The lawsuit alleges Johnican orchestrated at least three beatings and “various forms of physical harm and bullying both for his own amusement or as a deeply disturbed disciplinary measure” over three months.

“Johnican actively and regularly encouraged other students to engage in actions that went beyond mere pushing or shoving,” court documents said.

In at least three assaults, the boy, identified as O.D. in court papers, was thrown to the ground, struck, slapped, and hit in the head repeatedly, court documents said.

O.D. told his mother that another teacher working in the classroom said that special needs students were “demonically possessed,” and staff told him he was “bad,” “needed to be baptized,” and that “holy water needed to be poured on him” to cure him of his evil, court documents said.

When the mother brought up her concerns with the teacher, he dismissed the accounts as behavioral issues and indicated the boy was “lying and/or mentally ill,” the lawsuit alleges. The teacher also allegedly repeatedly suggested the boy was fabricating stories to avoid attending school, court documents said.

At one point, when the mother responded to the school after her son had a traumatic experience, the boy told her a student slammed his head on a desk, pulled him to the floor, and hit him repeatedly in the head, court documents said. He said his teacher directed the attack, and it happened in his presence, court documents said.

When the mother tried to get answers from the school, she was “repeatedly informed that it was her child who was disruptive, lying, and that this was a sign of a disordered personality in the child and related to his ADHD,” the lawsuit alleges.

The alarming news came out in November during a parent-teacher conference with Johnican about the mother’s concerns, the complaint said. Johnican was trying to show the boy’s parents a video about the classroom experience when he inadvertently showed them a video of their son being attacked, court documents said. The footage, the lawsuit said, revealed a “flagrant encouragement of physical assault.”

“When the parent attempted to grab the phone, he inadvertently turned up the volume where the parents could hear that it was him, the teacher, instigating and encouraging the beating of their disabled seven-year-old child,” court documents said. “In a deeply troubling display, teacher Julious Johnican was responsible for recording at least one of the incidents in which he can be audibly heard instigating violence against the seven-year-old O.D. by another student.”

The video shows the boy on the floor crying as he’s repeatedly punched in the face and head by a peer who is sitting on top of him as he cries out and begs for the attack to stop, the lawsuit alleges.

Amid the turmoil, Johnican prompts the aggressor to keep hitting O.D.’s head and face as the boy lay sobbing on the floor, court documents said.

“This behavior not only exposes a severe lapse in safeguarding, but also a shocking complicity in the perpetration of abuse,” the complaint said.

The mother reported the video to the school secretary on Nov. 1, 2023, and insisted the police be called, court documents said. The mother also contacted the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), which launched an investigation, according to the complaint.

DCS investigators learned through an interview with the vice principal that the substitute teacher had remarked after witnessing an attack that O.D. and other 6- and 7-year-old children, some of whom had special needs, were “bad kids, that’s what you do!” court documents said the vice principal was told by the substitute.

DCS also learned that O.D. reported the abuse to the behavioral consultant, but the consultant didn’t contact DCS or school administration about it, even though he was a mandatory reporter required to report known or suspected abuse, court documents allege.

DCS questioned the human resources manager for IPS Schools who knew about a fight video recorded by Johnican, court documents said. When asked about the boy being attacked, the HR manager allegedly “shockingly indicated” to DCS investigators he had no empathy for O.D. getting attacked “as a result of a disciplinary measure in Mr. Johnican’s classroom,” the lawsuit said.


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