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9-year-old beaten with belts at school by CPS teacher’s friend: lawsuit

A 9-year-old boy was beaten 20 to 30 times with leather belts in a Chicago Public Schools bathroom by a friend of a CPS teacher, the boy’s mother says in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

Fourth-grader Jomaury Champ suffered bruises all over his body, attorney Al Hofeld Jr. said during a news conference.

Jomaury was punished “either for something he did not do or for laughing with another boy the previous day,” according to the lawsuit, filed by Asia Gaines, Jomaury’s mother.

Teacher Kristen Haynes and Juanita Tyler dragged Jomaury into a boy’s bathroom on Sept. 20 at George W. Tilton Elementary School. Haynes then walked back to her classroom and Tyler, 56, proceeded to beat the boy, according to the lawsuit.

“Classmates could hear Jomaury’s cries from down the hall,” Hofeld said. “Haynes was in the classroom. No one, including Ms. Haynes, came to Jomaury’s aid.”

Jomaury Champ, 9, attends a press conference with his mother, Asia Gaines, to discuss a lawsuit she is filing over alleged abuse he suffered at George W. Tilton Public School, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.

Jomaury Champ, 9, attends a press conference with his mother, Asia Gaines, to discuss a lawsuit she is filing over alleged abuse he suffered at George W. Tilton Public School, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Haynes was arrested Sept. 24 and charged with battery and causing a child to be endangered, while Tyler was arrested four days later and charged with domestic battery causing bodily harm, according to Chicago police.

The lawsuit alleges Haynes had a history of corporal punishment that CPS and the Chicago Board of Education did not adequately address.

Haynes had previously threatened to “pull out the belt” to numerous other students, Hofeld said, and the school’s principal, Sylvia Yvette Hodge, was also aware of the belts in Haynes’ classroom closet.

“It’s an open secret,” Hofeld said. “It’s common knowledge when you talk to people at this school that she has been doing this for years.”

Hofeld would not specify how much money the lawsuit seeks, but said it would be enough for Jomaury to receive continued high-quality mental health care.

Jomaury has since been diagnosed with PTSD by multiple medical providers, he added, and was partially hospitalized five days a week for two months, requiring him to miss substantial school time.

Gaines said she was unaware of the incident until hours after it occurred and was outraged upon finding out. She said Jomaury “can’t sleep, can’t eat, (and has been) bedwetting every night” as he recovers from trauma.

Juanita Tyler and Kristen Haynes

Juanita Tyler (left) and Kristen Haynes face criminal charges after a boy in Haynes’ CPS class was beaten at school. | Chicago Police

“I point the finger at CPS because school is a safe haven for kids,” Gaines said. “Teachers are supposed to protect kids from hurt, harm or danger, and she failed to do so.”

Tyler had a criminal history of battery which the complaint also alleges Haynes was aware of.

Prior to the September incident, Tyler had been charged with child endangerment once and domestic battery three times. She was convicted of battery in 2005.

CPS said Haynes no longer teaches at the school and an investigation is ongoing.

“Every student deserves a safe learning environment and the district will not tolerate actions that place students in the way of harm,” the district said in a statement released Thursday. “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.”