Police, TDSB investigating whether an educational assistant choked a 6-year-old

Toronto police are investigating after a Grade 1 student was allegedly choked last week by an educational assistant at a Toronto District School Board elementary school.

Grade 1 student's mother says she wants to move her son out of St. Margaret's Public School

Deon Providence alleges her six-year-old son was choked by an educational assistant at St. Margaret's Public School on Thursday. Police and the Toronto District School Board are investigating. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

The Toronto District School Board has ordered an educational assistant to stay home pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations that he choked the six-year-old boy he was meant to be supervising. 

The Grade 1 student's mother contacted Toronto police and they have also launched a criminal probe into what happened at St. Margaret's Public School on Thursday afternoon. 

"We have a report on file for an assault [and] we are interviewing people," Const. Caroline de Kloet said Monday when asked about the allegations.

No charges have been laid so far. Although board spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed that a staff member at the Scarborough school had been "placed on home assignment," he would not comment about the situation.  

This six-year-old has been staying home from school since an incident last Thursday afternoon. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

'I was broken by it'

Deon Providence said she was contacted by the Galloway Road school's vice principal on Thursday afternoon, who told her that two secretaries witnessed an incident involving an educational assistant and her son. 

'Looking at the size of his neck, that was what was bothering me.' - Deon Providence, mother who alleges her son was choked at school

Providence alleges that the vice principal told her that her son "was choked by a staff member" while in the office, something that the secretaries then reported. 

"I felt like I was hurt," Providence said in recounting the phone call. "I was broken by it."

She said that her son had been sent to the office with the assistant after the boy hit a teacher who took a lollipop from him. While in the office, the boy got off a bench, because he thought he saw a friend coming toward him with some of his homework, his mother said.

That's when she alleges the male assistant forced her son to sit back down, first putting pressure on his legs and then wrapping his arms around the boy's neck.

"Looking at the size of his neck, that was what was bothering me," Providence said.
The boy attended Grade 1 at St. Margaret's Public School in Scarborough. (Submitted: TDSB)

Home from school

The school did not call an ambulance, Providence alleged, but she did when she got home. Paramedics assessed the boy, told her his oxygen level seemed normal and he did not appear to be bruised.

Still, she later called police to register a complaint.

And she said she has decided to keep her son home from school, because she's concerned about the lack of information she said she's received from the board. No one from either the school or the board has contacted the family to see how the boy is doing, his mother alleged.

He's still shaken up, she said. He's had trouble sleeping since Thursday.

"It did shock him," she said. "He would never expect that."

Providence said she would like to see her son moved to another school. She said she also thinks the educational assistant should be dismissed based on what she believes to have happened.  

"I would love to know that he's not going to be allowed to be around a child again."

The board would not comment on the specific allegations. 

Instead, it issued a statement saying that whenever there are serious complaints about a staff member's behaviour they will launch an investigation. 

Board "procedures require Toronto Police and/or the Children's Aid Society to be notified and staff are typically sent home during that investigation," the statement read. "We take all allegations seriously and follow our procedures for investigating those reports."

With files from Muriel Draaisma and Alison Chiasson