NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. -- The woman who was the principal of a school with at least three abuse allegation cases on Exceptional Student Education students in 2016 has been promoted to the Director of ESE in Nassau County and some parents are not pleased.
Yulee Primary School in Nassau County made headlines at the end of 2016 when a paraprofessional was accused, for the second time, of mistreating ESE students. At the time, Misty Mathis was the principal.
Local mother Stephanie Smith said she took her son out of the Nassau County School system and uprooted her entire life in 2015. She felt she wasn't being heard about what had allegedly been done to her son by the same paraprofessional that was again being accused of another incident of physical and verbal abuse.
The 2016 charges were ultimately dropped, but the paraprofessional was terminated after she made a phone call threatening her former coworker for reaching out to parents about the alleged abuse in the first place.
Simultaneously, a bus driver was being investigated for abuse against an ESE student and then a third issue arose where an ESE student was allegedly picked up by his ear.
In total, four families came forward with issues with their ESE children in Yulee Primary.
"Ms. Mathis is a highly qualified educator for this position," said a press release the Nassau County Public Schools sent to First Coast News Friday.
Smith said when she came forward with the issues she had regarding her son's education, Mathis was suddenly very hard to get a hold of.
"She was supposed to do an investigation and give us a report on it and contact us. It got to the point where she quit taking our calls, she disappeared, not just with me, but other parents in the future as well," said Smith. "She never came back to us with the report and let us know [...] what happened at all. I finally got that report two years later."
Now that Mathis is the Director of ESE, Smith is afraid other parents will have the same communication issues. "It's just a matter of time, it's a liability," she said.
Parents who felt forced to remove their children from the classrooms where the alleged abuse occurred will now have to contact Mathis when they make education plans for their special needs students.
"She sees her career in education as an act of service to her local community, and she will continue to strive for excellence for all students," the district's release said.
Smith said many parents have contacted the school board regarding Mathis' promotion.
“They [the parents] are very angry but they’re having to reel it back because they still have to deal with it now because it’s their child. It’s their child that pays the price at the end," said Smith.
Smith said she would like to see someone in the Director of ESE position who has no ties to the alleged abuse cases in the past.
“I think [the parents] are scared at this point because they felt like they were being heard and then the fact that they made this person director I mean what’s next? What can they do next? It just showed they can disregard everything that happened.”