A Florida teacher’s union is demanding answers and action after a 5-year-old student allegedly attacked a teacher who ended up in the hospital and needs surgery.
Last Wednesday, just before noon, police in Pembroke Pines were called to Pines Lakes Elementary School after a 5-year-old student allegedly attacked veteran special needs teacher Trisha Meadows.
“To say this is unacceptable isn’t strong enough,” Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union tells PEOPLE. “No one should have to go home to their family with a black eye, a broken nose or a cracked head — real injuries that have happened.
“We don’t get trained in how to go into combat with students or how to protect yourself against a chair or a bookshelf getting thrown on you.
“This is not the first time this has happened,” Fusco adds. “This has happened before.”
According to a police report obtained by PEOPLE, “The incident began when two students in the classroom, 4 and 5 years old, began throwing things around the classroom and at the teachers, along with flipping the chairs.”
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Other faculty members separated the students, while Meadows took the 5-year-old to a nearby “cool down” room, according to the report.
Moments later, she radioed other staff that she needed support, the report says.
“He actually ran and attacked and jumped on her with his whole body weight,” Fusco told WSVN. “She fell and hit her head, which caused the severe injury and other bodily injuries where she is going to need surgery.”
Meadows somehow “made her way out of the room on her own strength,” the responding officer wrote in the report.
He said he found her “sitting on the ground against the wall” and “in a faint state.” He said he had to “hold her up as she was clearly weak and dazed.”
When she began coughing and dry heaving, the officer “laid her on her side and held her head up straight to maintain an open airflow and prevent possible choking,” the report says.
Then the teacher lost consciousness. “I attempted to get a response from (Meadows) by asking if she could hear me or feel me touching her arm to which I didn’t get a response,” the officer said in the report.
She was rushed to a local hospital, with injuries so severe she had to be intubated, Fox 13 Tampa Bay reports.
The teacher has since been released from the hospital, Pembroke Pines Police Department PIO Amanda Conwell told PEOPLE in an email.
“No arrests have been made, and no charges have been filed with the State Attorney’s Office at this time,” she wrote.
Though the child will not be charged, the report does list two criminal charges: aggravated assault with hands, fist, and feet; aggravated battery to cause bodily harm or disability.
“If we were to proceed with charges those would be what we’d present to the SAO,” Conwell said.
In a statement about “an incident at Pines Lakes Elementary School on Wednesday, March 2, that resulted in a teacher being transported to a local hospital,” Broward County Public Schools said, “The safety of our teachers, staff and students are always the District’s highest priorities.
“The situation was investigated by Pembroke Pines Police and handled in accordance with District protocols.
“Due to privacy laws, the district is not able to provide any additional information and defers to Pembroke Pines Police.”
The district’s statement “sounds good on paper,” says Fusco, “but their actions didn’t show that.”
Calling the school environment “unsafe,” Fusco says, “This should never have happened. Our school district knew about the level of violence this student possessed but the sense of urgency wasn’t there from school’s leadership or our district’s leadership.
“Something has to be done so that he cannot cause this kind of damage to other students or to her again,” says Fusco.
This particular student has injured Meadows in the past, says Fusco.
Fixing this issue requires more funding and stronger policies and procedures, she says.
“Funding could bring in more people,” she says. Then “we can pay them better and afford proper professional development and the resources around that.”
She said some people on social media have asked how a 5-year-old could hurt an adult. “He’s done it more than once,” she says. “Several times. He’s hurt other children.”
Others, she said, asked how Meadows and the staff were unable to control a 5-year-old.
“It’s not easy when you have a room full of students and one or more of them is enraged,” she says. “This student happened to really flare and catch her off guard. She couldn’t work to control him because she was injured.”
Plus, she adds, teachers and staff “are not allowed to touch students.”
As police continue to investigate, Meadows, who Fusco calls a very “loving and nurturing” teacher, “wants to get better and get back to work as soon as she can.”
But she wants to make sure it’s safe.
“Asking if the school can guarantee that this isn’t going to happen to her again is not an unfair request,” she says.