Two teacher assistants arrested for assaulting special needs student

Two former teacher assistants at a school in Dorchester Distict Two are facing charges after allegedly violently assaulting a student.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 4:39 PM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 5:58 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - Two former teacher assistants at an elementary school in Summerville are facing charges after officials say they assaulted a special needs student.

Emily Westermann is charged with third-degree assault and battery. Patricia Fuller is charged with unlawful conduct towards a child, a felony carrying up to 10 years in prison.

Attorney Mark Peper, who is representing the family of the student says Westermann, a former teacher assistant at Newington Elementary School, was seen on surveillance video on May 10 grabbing and shoving an 11-year-old special needs student who is non-verbal and deaf. Surveillance video shows Westermann raising a fist and shoving the student to the ground before leaving the room, Peper said.

Westermann was escorted off school property and arrested on May 16, according to officials.

While investigating the surveillance video, Summerville Police discovered a separate incident that happened on May 8. In that incident, Fuller, a teacher’s aide, is seen pinching and pushing the same student before forcefully grabbing him by the neck and shoving him into a chair, forcefully grabbing the child by his neck and jaw, Peper said. The surveillance video shows the child raising his arms and screaming in fear, he said.

Officials say Fuller was arrested May 18.

On behalf of the family of the special needs child, the Peper Law Firm issued the following statement:

As parents, we expect our children to be safe from harm when we walk them into school each morning. To violently attack any student for any reason is intolerable; to attack a non-verbal, deaf, special needs student out of pure frustration is unforgivable. We intend to hold these individuals and those responsible for their employ accountable with the same wrath of fury directed upon this innocent child.

A Dorchester School District Two spokesperson says the two are no longer employed with the district.