The Atlanta Injury News Blog

Fulton Teacher Accused of Abusing Special Needs Students

It takes a certain type of person to teach special needs children. Melanie Pickens apparently isn't that type of person.

The former teacher is accused of abusing five special needs students at Hopewell Middle School in Milton from 2004 to 2007, Channel 2 Action News reports. Pickens has been indicted on child cruelty charges, but she may face civil suits from her victims as well.

Pickens' alleged victims were mostly non-verbal students. The former teacher reportedly pushed and shoved her students into lockers. According to investigators, she would also leave students in isolation for hours at a time. Pickens resigned from her position in 2007.

The mother of victim Alex Williams has come forward to speak about the abuse her son received. Lisa Williams says Alex, who's now 20 years old, endured physical abuse on a regular basis and has suffered psychological repercussions.

"He was losing skills, he was losing his personality. He ended up being diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)," Williams told Channel 2. "In any other situation, this treatment would be unacceptable. It's really hard for me to understand the fact that it happened at school."

Williams and other victims could sue Pickens for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. That would require them to show that Pickens' behavior was extreme or outrageous, and that it recklessly caused her victims to suffer severe emotional distress.

The victims could argue that it's outrageous behavior for a teacher to shove students and place them in isolation for hours at a time. If the suits are successful, the victims could be awarded damages for their emotional trauma, the cost of counseling, and even punitive damages.

A warrant has been issued for Pickens' arrest, according to authorities.

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