A former employee of a New York City public school said when he punched an 11-year-old student with autism in the face, it was a "reflex" reaction after the boy punched him first.
“Who gets hit and doesn’t respond?” Milton Parker asked the New York Daily News. “The kid punched me in the eye first and as a reflex he got hit back.”
Parker — a paraprofessional who had 26 years with the city's Department of Education — filed for retirement after the August 2014 incident at Public School 225 in Brighton Beach, the paper said. He now collects a pension.
The cafeteria incident was caught on surveillance video, and police at first charged Parker with felony assault, the Daily News reported. But he pleaded guilty last April to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to anger management classes, the paper added.
But there's still the matter of the lawsuit filed by Anatoly Veltman's parents against Parker and the city — which recently was ordered by a judge to hand over video of the incident to the plaintiffs after having refused for over a year to do so, the Daily News said.
“I knew it was on camera,” Parker told the paper. “If it was intentional, I would have taken him to another room and beaten the snot out of him.”
Parker told the Daily News he's representing himself in the suit and can’t afford a lawyer. He also said it was first time a student had hit him. “My whole life was destroyed because of this one incident,” Parker told the paper.
On that day Parker reprimanded Anatoly for spilling ice and throwing a napkin on the floor, the Daily News said. But then the 11-year-old told Parker, “This table is for whites only,” school records indicated. Parker is black.
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Anatoly, who has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old, apologized for the racial comment, then punched Parker. The paraprofessional responded with a heavy blow that gave Anatoly a concussion.
The boy’s father said he knew Anatoly had been hit hard because of the lump on his head, but he was still shocked by the brutality he witnessed in the video.
He said it is not unusual for an autistic child to act out, and the paraprofessionals should be trained not to respond with violence.
“I was very upset to see my son abused by someone entrusted to care for him,” Anatoly Veltman Sr. told the paper.
“The Department of Education has a duty and responsibility to better train their paraprofessionals so a shocking incident like this does not occur,” the Veltman's lawyer, Scott Rynecki, added.
A spokesman for the city Law Department declined to comment to the Daily News.
Another paraprofessional standing next to Parker and Veltman at the time of the incident said she didn't see either one throw a punch, the paper said, citing documents.