Camera captured substitute force soap in mouth of Humble ISD student with Down syndrome, mom says

Alex Bozarjian Image
Friday, January 26, 2024
Humble ISD axes sub accused of forcing soap in 13-year-old's mouth
A 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome was captured on a classroom camera when a substitute teacher forced soap in her mouth, the girl's mom said.

ATASCOCITA, Texas (KTRK) -- An Humble ISD substitute teacher is out of a job after she allegedly washed a student's mouth out with soap.

This happened on Tuesday at the Cambridge School, which caters to students with special education needs.

The student's mother, LaShae Celestine, feels the school wasn't immediately transparent about the situation.

She said the school has a camera inside the classroom, and she was able to review the video of the entire incident.

Celestine said her 13-year-old daughter, Harmony, has Down syndrome and her speaking ability is limited.

"You can't unsee that video. Like, you really assaulted my baby by putting soap in her mouth," Celestine said, describing the horror of what took place with her child.

A substitute teacher was overseeing Harmony's classroom when the girl asked a question.

"She said, 'What you doing?' And she has a speech impediment because she (has) Down syndrome. And the lady answered her, and then maybe about a few minutes later, my daughter said, 'What's that?' And it wasn't as clear," Celestine said.

Humble ISD said the substitute teacher interpreted the phrase as a swear word.

She then allegedly told Harmony to wash her mouth.

"My baby is like, 'No,' fearfully, and she's like, 'Wipe your mouth,' and (Harmony's) like 'No.' So, then, she decided to take it upon herself (to) walk over to my baby and put the napkin full of soap into my baby's mouth," Celestine said.

This happened just before 10 a.m., according to the district, but Celestine said she wasn't informed until 1 p.m.

In an email to Celestine, the principal detailed the incident: "Harmony hit the substitute across the face to stop her from putting soap on her mouth. The substitute hit Harmony back."

He then went on to write, "A paraprofessional in the classroom intervened by having the substitute leave the classroom and she made sure Harmony was OK."

"That video showed me she ran out of patience that day, and if you don't have the patience to work in a classroom with special needs kids, disabled kids, or kids, period, you need to find yourself another profession," Celestine said.

The teacher is no longer employed with Humble ISD, per the district.

In a statement to ABC13, the district said in part:

"We are shocked and outraged by the actions taken by the substitute teacher. All school staff should care for students in a respectful manner that honors the partnership with their parents. The district has reported the incident to Child Protective Services and Humble ISD Police are investigating."

"I send her to school to be safe. I am her protector, so when I take her to school, it's like, 'Tag, you're it. It is time for you to start protecting,' and she wasn't," Celestine said.

ABC13 is not naming the teacher because she hasn't been charged with a crime.

The district said this substitute teacher was a veteran with years of experience.

Humble ISD also said it is preparing a report to send to the Texas Education Agency.

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