BILLERICA, Mass. - A worker at a school for intellectually disabled children and young adults was found sleeping in the bed of a student at a Billerica group home, according to the school.
“I was upset, but I was in shock as well.”— Christine McCarthy (@ChristineMNews) March 19, 2019
School/group home worker found sleeping in bed of young man who has autism and is non-verbal. Tonight, only on @boston25 at 10 and 11, the student’s mother shares her concerns. pic.twitter.com/FlnutVWkJf
The 20-year-old student, who has autism and is non-verbal, goes to school at the Guild for Human Services in Concord during the day and lives in a Billerica group home run by the school.
On March 10, around 8:30 p.m., a supervisor found the male staff member asleep in the student’s bed. The young man was also in the bed but awake.
“Both staff and student were reported by the supervisor to be dressed fully,” Guild for Human Services CEO Amy Sousa wrote in a letter to families. “The bedroom door was open and the lights were on in the hallway outside as staff and students moved about the residence.”
The supervisor removed the worker, who was later fired by the school.
Diane Ignacio said she learned about the incident involving her son Dylan the following afternoon.
“I was very upset. I was afraid for my son. I didn’t know what occurred in the bed,” Ignacio said. “I have to entrust my son being cared for by the school. And then when things like this happen, I don’t feel he’s safe there.”
Sousa called the incident “disturbing” in the letter, adding that the school “does not allow a staff member to sleep while at work, nor would we ever tolerate the invasion of students’ personal boundaries.”
Ignacio, fearing her son had been hurt, brought him to a hospital emergency room for testing. Dylan, who has anxiety in hospitals, had to be restrained to have his blood taken. A physical exam and preliminary blood work show no sign of sexual assault, but follow-up testing may be required.
“That’s a mom’s worst nightmare, that someone hurt your child, especially a defenseless child that someone can’t tell you, verbalize that they were hurt by somebody,” Ignacio said. “It does worry me, and it keeps me up at night.”
Even if her son wasn’t hurt, Ignacio said, Dylan, who cannot take care of himself, was not being properly supervised by a sleeping worker.
“If my son got up, he could’ve gotten out of the house, gone out in the street, and there’s all woods around the house,” Ignacio said.
Billerica police told Boston 25 News that officers have been investigating the case and have forwarded a report to the district attorney’s office.
No charges have been filed against the worker, but the investigation is in the early stages.
Sousa said the school filed reports with the Disabled Persons Protection Commission and the Department of Early Education and Care.
Regularly-checked cameras are in common areas of the home but not in bedrooms, where there is an open-door policy, according to the school.
Ignacio hopes the school makes changes to protect the children and young adults in its care and she wants other parents to be aware of the issue.
“Parents like me entrust the school to take care of the kids, and they can’t advocate for themselves,” Ignacio said. “So parents like us have to do it for them.”
Ignacio is looking for a new school and home for Dylan.
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