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School employee charged in assault of student; instructor accused of lying about it

By 69 News, follow: @69news, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 11:18:36 AM CDT
Updated On: Aug 06 2014 03:46:16 PM CDT

Two employees of a therapeutic day school in Reading have been charged in connection with the physical assault of a student and an alleged plot to cover it up.

READING, Pa. -

Two school instructors are now behind bars, charged in connection with an alleged student assault at the Paramount Academy in Reading.

The attack happened on April 24 inside the school at 1700 City Line Street, an educational facility for city students with therapeutic needs, investigators said.

"We had a teacher use physical force on a child that was totally unwarranted and unnecessary," said District Attorney John Adams, whose child abuse unit conducted the investigation.

Around 1 p.m. that day, a "behavior specialist," identified as Ismael Seals, 34, of Philadelphia, was supervising students in a classroom taught by Teresa Bivens, 27, of Coatesville.

Certain classmates were being loud, according to police, at which point Seals allegedly threatened to "body slam" the next person who spoke.

Shortly after, the assault victim, a 17-year-old boy, asked Bivens for permission to sharpen his pencil. Permission was granted, according to investigators, and as the victim stood, Seals reportedly ordered him to sit, and then slammed the student against the classroom door.

Police said Seals, standing approximately six feet, four inches tall and weighing 280 pounds, proceeded to push the student, who stands five feet, eight inches tall and weighs 162 pounds, into the hallway, pushing his body against the walls. Part of the attack was caught on video surveillance that was turned over to police.

The victim suffered bruises and scratches but is okay, investigators said.

"[Seals] picked on this student and used physical force to a degree that was totally unnecessary," said Adams. "And there was a cover-up."

According to investigators, both Bivens and Seals lied to investigators about the incident, falsely claiming that the victim had acted disruptively prior to the attack.

Days later, Bivens then reportedly admitted to police that she had lied, alleging that her "higher-ups" asked her to "clean up" the incident, according to investigators.

In an interview with 69 News, Matt Wiltrout, executive director at Paramount Academy, denied those allegations, adding that the alleged assault is "not acceptable."

"We've worked hand in hand with the authorities since April when this incident happened, and we're going to continue to work hand in hand with them," said Wiltrout. "This is an absolute embarrassment to us. It's not a reflection of our staff as a whole."

Wiltrout said that Seals was immediately terminated following the incident. Bivens was terminated shortly thereafter.

According to Adams, however, the academy did not immediately report the incident. Rather, the alleged attack was first reported by the county's juvenile probation office.

On Tuesday, the Reading School District, which hired Paramount, released a statement to 69 News claiming that it "immediately placed monitors at Paramount to ensure the safety of all students throughout the remainder of the school year. The district is appalled by the behavior of the two Paramount employees charged in this incident."

Seals is charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and related offenses.

Bivens is charged with unsworn falsification to authorities, conspiracy, and other charges.