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Former AMIkids employee accused of fracturing student's skull turns himself in

Posted at 2:54 PM, Feb 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 08:24:24-05

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — A 34-year-old former AMI Kids Pinellas school employee has turned himself in after an alleged case of child abuse at a Pinellas Park school.

A 12-year-old boy suffered a skull fracture, brain bleed and two subdural hematomas after an encounter with Dontae Thomas, according to police. Officers say no one reported the incident to officers or the boy's mother.

On Friday, the school, AMI Kids in Pinellas Park closed their doors after the Department of Juvenile Justice suspended operations at the school over the incident. By Monday, all 40 students will transfer to other schools in Pinellas County, most to nearby Pinellas Secondary School.

Pinellas Park Police say the 12-year-old boy has been released from Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. The boy was injured after a "physical altercation" with Thomas, a behavioral interventionist (BI) at AMIkids, which is a nonprofit that tries to help at-risk youth. According to police, the boy was said to be "acting out" during lunch on February 11 and Thomas removed him to the "Room of Opportunity."

Thomas told police he attempted to take the 100-pound student down using an "arm bar" but the student ended up being slammed on his head. Pinellas Park Police officers, however, say it was more like a body slam.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Student suffers skull fracture, brain bleed after run-in with AMIkids employee, police say

After the altercation, the student started to vomit and lose consciousness. Police believe the child lost consciousness multiple times.

“Here we have a 300 pound man, grown man with a 12-year-old child that weighs 100 pounds,” said Capt. Adam Geissenberger, the Pinellas Park Police Department Public Information officer. “That has to be taken into consideration any time you’re going to put hands on somebody.”

The student was then left undisturbed but supervised for 90 minutes before another BI took him to a conference room, where police say officials watched him for another 30 minutes.

Police say the student was then taken to his bus by the BI, who rode the bus with him even though it's not standard protocol. The BI directed the driver to stop at another student's home to get water for the victim, according to police. They say the BI then had the driver pass the injured student's bus stop and instead drop him off directly at home.

Police say the BI released the student without contacting his mother.

The following day, police say the child was kept home by his mother, who thought he had the flu. On February 13, police say the mother, still unaware of the incident that happened at school, took her son to All Children's Hospital because she was worried that he wasn't getting better.

Police say an evaluation at the hospital revealed the fractured skull, subdural hematomas and brain bleed. Police believe all the injuries came from the confrontation at the school.

On Monday, authorities arrested 28-year-old Jarvis West, a supervisor at AMIkids, for failure to report child neglect and neglect of a child resulting in great bodily harm. Police say West was the supervisor of the day, knew force was used, knew the student was in medical duress and failed to provide medical attention or report the abuse.

“They waited two hours before they put this child on a school bus. What kind of damage occurred to the child, I don’t know [because] I’m not a medical professional but for two hours this child suffered and Mr. West did nothing to provide him with medical aid. Nothing,” said Geissenberger on Tuesday.

West was booked into the Pinellas County Jail and has already bonded out. We tried talking to West at his Pinellas Park home on Tuesday but no one came to the door.

On Friday, Thomas turned himself into the Hillsborough County jail. The Pinellas Park Police Department said Thomas is being charged with aggravated child abuse and is being held on $150,000 bond.

“Everybody’s got to be held responsible for their actions no matter what,” said Bill Underhill, a neighbor who lives next door to West.

He says he’s deeply concerned by the accusations.

“He should’ve called 911 and he should have gotten an ambulance or paramedics there to make sure he was okay. It looks like he’s going to face some serious charges because he didn’t uphold his part of the deal,” Underhill said.

AMIkids in Pinellas County released the following statement after Thomas' arrest:

"While we are grateful that Mr. Thomas has made the decision to turn himself in, this is an ongoing investigation in partnership with local law enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice so we will not be commenting any further."
"While we are grateful that Mr. Thomas has made the decision to turn himself in, this is an ongoing investigation in partnership with local law enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice so we will not be commenting any further."

The incident prompted AMIkids to shut down its Pinellas Park location. Starting Monday, Pinellas County School district leaders say 13 students will transfer to Pinellas Secondary School, 11 will go to their zoned schools, 2 will go to Disston Academy, 1 will be homeschooled, 1 will attend virtual school and 12 are still working to decide.