A student at Jack Benny Middle School in Waukegan says a substitute teacher punched him in the face and broke his finger while he was having an argument with another student.
Brandon Cole, 14, appeared alongside his family and attorney Kevin O’Connor during a press conference Tuesday evening.
“I’m really scared because my teacher hit me in the face, broke my finger, bruised my face,” Cole said.
O’Connor said Cole was having an argument with another student. “Instead of the teacher breaking it up, the teacher escalated it and ended up punching and assaulting him.”
Cole’s mother said it is not a “thought that I would ever think could happen to my son.”
Waukegan School District 60 Superintendent Theresa Plascencia sent a letter to parents about the incident Tuesday afternoon.
Plascencia said a “physical altercation” occurred between a student and a substitute teacher at Jack Benny Middle School.
Plascencia called the incident, which occurred in a science classroom, “completely unacceptable.”
“Let me begin by saying that this type of behavior by any trusted adult in one of our schools is completely unacceptable, and any staff conduct that compromises the safety and well-being of students has not and will not be tolerated,” she said.
The staff member has been terminated and will not be working in the school district moving forward.
O’Connor, Cole’s mother and Black Lives Matter Lake County Chapter Founder Clyde McLemore spoke out during a Tuesday evening Waukegan Public Schools board meeting about the incident.
Plascencia said an investigation is ongoing by authorities and the district is not in a position to discuss further details on it.
“I can assure you that the safety and security of our students has been and continues to be our top priority,” she said in the letter.
Waukegan Deputy Police Chief Joe Florip told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that officers took the staff member into custody on a misdemeanor charge.
Florip said further information on the incident was not immediately available for release.
“We know an incident like this can be disturbing. I am feeling the same emotions many of you may be experiencing. Our school staff are entrusted by parents to teach, mentor and protect their children,” Plascencia said.
“This action is a blatant breach of that trust, and I’m truly sorry that this unfortunate incident took place,” she said.
Students who witnessed the incident and need support will have access to mental health staff, the school’s letter said.