Chicago teacher accused of enlisting friend to beat 9-year-old student with belts at school

"JC kept hearing the 'whoosh' sound of the belts as she swung them through the air before they landed on his body," the suit says.
Image: Juanitya S Tyler and Kristen A Haynes
Juanitya S Tyler and Kristen A HaynesChicago Police Dept.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A Chicago public school teacher is accused of enlisting the help of a friend to beat one of her 9-year-old students with belts, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the student's mother Thursday.

Asia Gaines filed the suit against the Chicago Board of Education; her son's homeroom teacher, Kristen Haynes; and Haynes' childhood friend, Juanita Tyler.

The suit alleges that Haynes, 50, invited Tyler, 56, to George W. Tilton Elementary School "for the purpose of corporally punishing" Gaines' son, identified only as JC, on Sept. 20, 2018.

Tyler is JC's great aunt on his father's side, according to the suit, but he had only met her once when he was young, making her "for all intents and purposes, a total stranger."

JC's parents did not authorize her to have contact with JC at the school, but Haynes "somehow knew or learned" that Tyler was related to JC and invited her into the school. Haynes wanted to punish JC "for laughing in class," the suit said.

As the child was making his way to homeroom the next morning, Tyler grabbed him, hit him in the mouth twice as he tried to resist, and with Haynes, carried him to a boys' bathroom, the suit claims. "JC is small, only 4’5” tall and approximately 66 pounds," according to the suit.

Haynes left JC and Tyler alone in the bathroom, at which point Tyler demanded, “Pull down your pants!" The boy refused so Tyler started hitting him over his clothes, with two leather belts — "one laid on top of the other" — that Haynes had given her, the suit says.

Tyler hit JC up to 30 times on his back, shoulder, buttocks and on the back of his leg, which broke JC's skin and left abrasions, the complaint alleges.

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According to the lawsuit, "JC kept hearing the 'whoosh' sound of the belts as she swung them through the air before they landed on his body," as he repeatedly said, "I want my mama!”

“I am your mama!" Tyler responded, according to JC's account detailed in the suit.

The suit claims that Tyler brought JC back to Haynes' classroom where, until lunchtime, he "sobbed uncontrollably, publicly shamed and humiliated by the experience."

No one at the school notified JC's parents that he had been beaten, the suit says.

They didn't find out until he came home, at which point JC's mother took him to the hospital for treatment, and called police.

Haynes was arrested on Sept. 24 and charged with battery and child endangerment, according to Chicago Police Department records. She was released on $1,500 bond on Sept. 25.

Tyler was arrested on Sept. 28 and charged with battery, according to police records. She was released the next day.

The suit alleges that Chicago Public Schools and the Board of Education were aware that Haynes had "physically punished other students in her class with belts" she kept in her classroom closet, but never disciplined her.

"JC’s mother and father are devastated that they were not able to protect their son," the suit says. "Before the incident, 9-year-old JC was a cheerful, playful, fun-loving, happy-go-lucky little boy. ... Since the incident, he is no longer happy and feels sad and bad all the time."

Since he was beaten, JC has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, is having trouble sleeping and eating, and will require extensive, long-term psychotherapy, the suit says.

He was traumatized again when he had to return to Tilton Elementary four days after he was beaten because the school system would not agree to provide transportation to an alternative school, the suit says.

Gaines, JC's mother, is suing for unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

Haynes was "removed from her position" after the district learned of the "deeply concerning allegations" against her, said Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Emily Bolton.

"Every student deserves a safe learning environment and the district will not tolerate actions that place students in the way of harm," Bolton said. "While the investigation remains ongoing, the district is working directly with the school to ensure support is available for the student and family."