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Fired for Spotting Sex Abuse, Child’s Aide Says

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CN) - A special needs school fired a teacher's assistant who suspected that a colleague was sexually abusing one of her students, the woman claims in court.

Marie Gilberte Augustin says that she started working for Brookville Center for Child Services as a behavioral aide in 2008.

On June 13, 2011, she had taken a day off from looking after a 15-year-old boy, and the teenager had been put into the care of a teacher she identifies only as Michael C., according to the complaint in Nassau County Supreme Court.

When she came back the next day, the teenager's mother slipped her a note stating that the child "had marks and bruises on his private area," Augustin says.

Augustin shared the note with Michael, and also brought it to the school nurse for evaluation and mandatory reporting, according to the complaint.

The aide says she left the teenager with Michael and another teacher's assistant roughly three months later, on Sept. 21, 2011, during her lunch break.

After her break ended, Augustin claims that she saw Michael taking the student to the bathroom.

Augustin says she opened the bathroom door to "check up" on them, and Michael "jumped out of the bathroom stall, red-faced, quickly washed his hands and face while the child was still on the toilet."

The aide left Michael and the student in the bathroom to report her findings to another teacher's assistant. Michael and the student allegedly had not come out of the bathroom after 10 minutes, so Augustin returning to her classroom.

"When the infant did not arrive about some 7 minutes later, plaintiff returned to the bathroom to see if the child was ok," the complaint states. "He was not there."

She allegedly returned to her classroom and found the teenager there "shaking" next to Michael.

Augustin says she asked whether the child was having a seizure and whether he had used the bathroom.

Michael allegedly confirmed that the boy had used the bathroom and denied that he was having a seizure.

"The plaintiff was about to take the child to his next activity when she noticed that he urinated on himself," the complaint states.

She and another teacher's assistant took the boy to the bathroom, pulled down his pants and "saw lots of bruising, irritations and black and blue marks around his private area," according to the complaint.

She says that she reported the matter to the nurse, and then Child Protective Services, that day.

Two days later, Augustin's staffing agencies, Maxim Staffing Solutions and Maxim Healthcare Services, called to tell her that the Bellemore-Merrick Central High School District no longer wanted her at the Brookville Center, according to the complaint.

She claims that the school brushed off her allegations because she is a "black Haitian woman of Caribbean de[s]cent" and Michael C. is a "Caucasian male."

Augustin sued Nassau County, the school district, Brookville, Maxim and the local chapter of the Association for Helping Retarded Children (AHRC).

Mary McNamara, director of the AHRC Foundation, distanced her organization from Augustin in a phone interview.

"She's not an employee of ours," McNamara said. "She was a one-to-one contract through a school district. Oftentimes, they contract with outside agencies."

Brookville Center's website lists AHRC staffers as their press contacts.

McNamara said that school employers told her that Augustin was "well-liked" and that "the job ended for her" without firing.

She insisted that AHRC had "absolutely no pending" complaints "regarding any abuse" and that the organization takes the allegations "very seriously."

AHRC also says there is no record of having been served with the lawsuit.

Augustin alleges violations of New York State Labor Law's whistle-blower statute (Section 740), anti-discrimination laws and obligations to protect reporters of abuse.

Augustin's attorney Cateline Mark, of the law firm G. Wesley Simpson P.C., declined to elaborate on the allegations of the complaint at this time.

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