Friends and family of 4-year-old Daylan Wilkins, who has autism and who was allegedly held upside and shaken by a teacher at Montrose Early Childhood Center on March 27, are holding a “Justice for Daylan” rally on Saturday, beginning at 12 p.m. in South Orange.
The family says that they have “not been given any answers, nor have they been contacted by the Board of Education, Superintendent or local officials” in the month since the incident. They are seeking funds to pay for Daylan’s tuition at a private preschool.
The teacher was been suspended following the alleged incident.
“This baby has bruises everywhere. It seems like she was fighting this kid,” Candie Wilkins, the child’s grandmother, told NJ.com.
In March, Wilkins reported that Montrose Principal Bonita Samuels called the NJ Department of Child Protection and Permanency and that the family had reported the incident to the South Orange police.
South Orange Police Chief Ernesto Morillo told Village Green in March:“There is an incident report and SOPD is working with all appropriate agencies to ensure a thorough investigation.” A open public records request by Village Green for the SOPD report was denied on the grounds that the incident is “an ongoing investigation.”
In March, South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronald Taylor responded to media inquiries with the following statement: “Thank you for your inquiry, the health and safety of our students are the highest priority for the South Orange and Maplewood School District. We are cooperating with the appropriate authorities and are unable to offer further comments due to the confidentiality applicable to student and personnel matters.”
However, friends and family of Daylan say that communication from the district has been non-existent since the initial notification and transparency from local authorities is long overdue.
The press release announcing the April 29 stated that “a collective of community organizations and concerned members of the greater Maplewood-South Orange area will be mobilizing in support of the family of a four-year-old Black child with autism who has been a victim of abuse by his teacher.”
The release included former Board of Education candidate Felisha George, a CHS graduate, and CHS teacher and MapSO Freedom School founder TJ Whitaker as contacts, along with community member Chris Durán.
The rally will begin at Grove Park in South Orange and proceed on foot to the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education Building at 525 Academy Street, “where we will rally in solidarity with the family of the child and demand proper transparency and accountability on the part of the district,” said organizers.
The release alleges that the child was held “upside-down by his ankles and dangled in the air for about 15 seconds by his teacher at Montrose Early Childhood Center. At this time, five other teachers were present in the classroom for the abuse. The Wilkins family was not notified of what happened when they arrived five minutes later to pick their child up, and instead was told over 48 hours later on March 29, at around 4:30 p.m. The teacher was suspended the morning of March 28 when one of the teachers present for the assault made the principal, Bonita Samuels, aware of what happened in the classroom the day before. It has been one month since the harm took place and the family has still not been given any answers, nor have they been contacted by the Board of Education, Superintendent or local officials. Montrose Early Childhood Center in particular, along with the Maplewood-South Orange school district in general, has a long history of mental and physical abuse toward their students – either through neglect or direct complicity.”
The release concludes: “As members of this community, we are coming together to demand accountability in the form of proper restitution to the family in order to pay for an education where the child is valued and cared for with adequate resources, along with a restructuring of the accountability process for incidents such as these, including transparency for the family and community. The shameful and abusive practices allowed by this school district systemically must come to an end in order to build a safe and productive climate and culture of education for our youth.”