A teacher at Jefferson Terrace Elementary was arrested Monday on allegations she slapped a 9-year-old girl who was in a wheelchair during class.
Nerelyn Lava Soreta, 50, 9935 Mollylea Ave., was booked into Parish Prison on one count of simple battery of the infirm, a misdemeanor, and placed on administrative leave.
The mother of the nonverbal, mentally disabled student contacted the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office last week to report the battery, which was filmed by a nurse who had become concerned after spending less than a week inside the classroom.
“I was crushed,” the girl’s mother, Lasundra Lipsey, said Monday evening. “I did not want to send her to school. Since she can’t talk, she couldn’t say someone has done something to her.”
Lipsey said she was disappointed it took a few days for the authorities to make the arrest, but said she was elated Soreta was taken into custody.
“I trusted Ms. Soreta. That’s why she went to school there for three years,” Lipsey said of her daughter, who is no longer attending the school and is being taught by a teacher for home-bound students.
“I thought she had a genuine love for special needs students.”
A Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, Casey Rayborn Hicks, said deputies reviewed video of Soreta “pushing the child’s face with her hand and striking her several times on the leg.”
Soreta surrendered Monday afternoon to the Sheriff’s Office.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor said Soreta could be terminated depending on the outcome of a school district investigation.
“Clearly, if what is alleged is true, the behavior demonstrated is not consistent with what is expected of a teacher,” Taylor said in a text message, “nor is the behavior typical of the vast majority of the district’s teachers.”
A number of parents expressed concern in interviews after the cellphone video surfaced last week. The nurse who filmed the video, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she had just begun working at the school but was increasingly concerned by the teacher’s behavior.
She said she voiced her concerns to her employer but decided to film Soreta to back up her allegations.
“I felt like nobody believed that I was telling the truth,” the nurse said.
“If you do something like that in a nursing home, you’re going on immediate suspension right then.”
“If it was my child, I would want somebody to tell me,” she added.
Lipsey said she thinks the teacher deserves to serve some time in jail.
“I do not think she should be allowed to work at any school around any children or anybody with special needs,” she said.
Staff writer Charles Lussier contributed to this report.