CHICAGO (CBS) — Jomaury Champ says he no longer feels safe at school, traumatized after a beating at the start of the day last September. The 9-year-old says it came at the hands of a stranger, a woman who struck him with belts.
“Every time she whacked me, I heard the [sound] of the belt,” Jomaury said.
He said his nightmare began in the hallway at George Tilton Elementary School in Chicago, where his teacher, Kristen Haynes, and Juanita Tyler, a distant relative he did not know, grabbed him.
He said the women each grabbed his arms and yelled at him and Tyler struck him.
“I tried to say, ‘What did I do?’ And she just hit me in my lip. Then my teacher, she said, ‘You know what you did.’ And then the lady hit me in my lip again,” said Jomaury. He said he still does not know what the teacher said he did wrong. CPS won’t comment.
He said he was taken into the bathroom, where his teacher left him alone with Tyler and returned to her class.
“The lady, she told me to pull down my pants, but I didn’t. So she got mad, and she started whacking me with the two belts,” Jomaury said.
He says his screams for help went unanswered.
“She told me again, pull down my pants and I didn’t,” Jomaury said. “The two belts were inside her hand. She was holding the tip of where the belt buckle was. That’s when she started whacking me. I started screaming and crying.”
His parents say Tyler hit their son so hard on his legs and back, there were welts and broken skin.
As a result of the beating, Jomaury was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has spent most of his school time in a special program at Garfield Park Hospital.
Jomaury’s family believes Haynes was upset with Jomaury’s behavior, so she contacted Tyler to come to the school to discipline him. The women have a long history together. Tyler said they were childhood friends and grew up together. Tyler also is Jomaur’s great-aunt. Jomaury’s father says Tyler is estranged from his family. It is not known exactly how Tyler was able to enter the school.
It is also unclear how long Jomaury was in the bathroom with Tyler. After he was whipped, he says Tyler brought him back to the classroom.
“She got in my face and said, “You respect [Haynes] because we grew up together.’ She gave my teacher back the belts and she left,” Jomaury said.
The belts, he says, belonged to the teacher. Jomaury’s mother, Asia Gaines, says she knew the teacher had belts and says the principal knew, too. Before the bathroom incident, Gaines was visiting school and said Haynes showed her the belts.
“She said, ‘I’ve got something to show you.’ The principal was standing right there,” said Gaines. “It was two belts – a brown one and a black one.”
Gaines says Haynes even offered to provide the belts if Gaines ever wanted to “whoop him.”
She says she laughed it off and did not think the teacher was serious.
For years, the CBS 2 Investigators have been exposing corporal punishment inside Chicago Public Schools. In 2010, a 9-year-old was struck by a belt by a security guard. In 2008, the CBS 2 Investigators exposed a teen being hit with a wooden paddle by a coach.
In 2009, the CBS 2 Investigators documented 818 school beating and mistreatment allegations against staff. Students reported being hit with belts, broomsticks, even a so-called whipping machine used on a kindergarten student. Sustained complaints totaled 568, but only 24 CPS staff were terminated. The CBS 2 Investigators repeatedly asked CPS for recent numbers but were told the statistics are no longer tracked that way.
In Jomaury’s case, Haynes faces an ongoing CPS investigation, and she was arrested and charged with battery. That case goes to trial Feb. 19.
“It’s like the system broke and it needs to be fixed,” said Joseph Champ, Jomaury’s father.
In a statement, CPS said:
“Every student deserves a safe learning environment and the district will not tolerate actions that place students in the way of harm. After learning of deeply concerning allegations, the district removed the employee from her position and launched a full investigation. While the investigation remains ongoing, the district is working directly with the school to ensure support is available for the student and family.”
“There were multiple breakdowns, multiple violations of law, that led to the beating of this child,” said Al Hofeld, Jr., an attorney now representing the family. “The most serious, the most critical injuries are not physical – they are psychological, emotional and mental.”
“He was crying every day,” said Asia Gaines about her son. “Calling me – he’s nervous. He’s scared. He don’t feel right.”
Gaines said she called the teacher after the incident and got a strange apology: “She was sorry. She didn’t know that it wasn’t OK for the person to come and give him a whooping.”
Tyler has been charged with domestic battery, though she told CBS 2 she did not hit Jomaury.
“I wasn’t the one that done it,” said Tyler outside the courthouse following one of her hearings.
Tyler said she just went there to talk to the boy.
“I said, ‘Best thing for you to do is go in there and act right because Auntie going to pay you $5 a week if you be good at school,'” said Tyler, referring to her family connection. “He said, ‘OK Auntie, I’m going to do what you say, Auntie.’ ”
Tyler admitted going to the bathroom but said it was because of a medical condition that causes her to urinate frequently. She showed CBS 2 a document that she claimed explained her condition but would not allow a reporter to fully review it.
“See this letter right here? [It says] Juanita Tyler piss every five minutes,” she said.
Tyler said she just talked to Jomaury as she used the bathroom.
Court records show she has had five past battery arrests but only one conviction, in 2005, for domestic battery. Despite the record, she told the CBS 2 Investigators she works with foster children for the Illinois Department Of Children and Family Services. Citing legal reasons, a DCFS spokesman said the agency could not answer CBS 2’s questions about Tyler’s claims.
Champ and Gaines are concerned about the lasting effect this incident has had on their son. They say he was bullied and humiliated by other students who heard his screams. Jomaury says he has a hard time sleeping at night. He stays up because he relives it when he closes his eyes.
“Every time I close my eyes,” he said.