Bus driver Thomas Norton assaulted an adult student from the Michigan School for the Deaf [MSD], repeatedly slamming his head onto the glass window. The aide did not intervene during the February 5, 2020 incident or report it, even though she is a mandated reporter herself.

For a week, MSD parents were left completely in the dark. It took a public news release (which was published just yesterday on February 12, 2020) from The Flint Journal or a notification from others who heard about it on the radio for MSD parents to find out about the incident.

MSD parents are beyond furious that they never received direct communications from the school.

“Mainstream public schools tend to notify parents of incidents–such as shootings, emergency lockdowns, and physical altercations–on an immediate basis. But they [MSD] do not do it on the same day of the incident…it takes them a few days to do so,” one Deaf parent told Deaf Vee Journal.

This is not the first time parents have reported a lapse in time between an incident and any type of contact from the school. Several parents have been discussing their concerns in various Facebook groups; however, there is a beacon of hope. MSD has a new Principal starting on March 23, 2020, and his name is Rex Vernon. Veronon was the favorite candidate among students due to his history with the school as a tenured teacher.

With Vernon in charge, some parents have shared their hopes for improved communication efforts from MSD. Not only does Vernon have the education and qualifications for the position, he also grew up in the community as a Child of Deaf Adult [CODA] and is fluent in American Sign Language.

MSD’s website does not seem to have a student or parent handbook available online in regard to policies on parental notifications. The Daily Journal discussed some possible reasons why parents are not notified every time there is a “list” or “incident” that happens on school property. Readers need to keep in mind that The Daily Journal reports perceptions from superintendents of a school district that can easily reach over 2,000-4,000 students compared to the Michigan School for the Deaf, which has a total of 133 students for the 2019-2020 school year (Public School Review). With a smaller and more concentrated number of students, support and communication between the school and parents is even more important.

What proactive policies does the Michigan School for the Deaf have in place regarding hiring, safety planning, responding to and reporting incidents, parental notifications, and other precautions?

If you are aware of a dependent adult who is experiencing abuse from anybody else, please report it to the Adult Protective Services county department within your state. If you are a mandated reporter, you must take action right away. Mandated reporters are healthcare providers, licensed or unlicensed social service providers for vulnerable adults, paid or unpaid caretakers, care custodians, the clergy, and other professionals in a position of trust who suspect abuse or neglect of elder adults or dependent adults, including self-neglect.

Check out Darkness to Light’s Mandated Reporting FAQ for more information.