NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- New Rochelle City officials have initiated an investigation into the publication of a video on social media which depicts an intellectually disabled child being shoved by a summer camp coordinator. A separate photo of another child from a different incident was also published.
The images were brought to the attention of Talk of the Sound after they were allegedly published to the Snapchat account of Kayla James, a seasonal employee of the New Rochelle Department of Parks and Recreation. James was employed this summer at Camp Joy, a summer program for “students of Special Education with mild to moderate intellectual developmental disabilities “ held at New Rochelle High School but run by the City of New Rochelle.
City Manager Charles B. Strome and City Corporation Counsel Kathleen Gill were presented a copy of the 9-second video along with a photo of a second youngster at an off-the-record meeting last week with Talk of the Sound. A meeting with Park Department officials took place this morning and further investigation is ongoing.
The video and photo were published on the Snapchat account of Kayla James and shared among camp employees, according to a source who obtained copies of both and provided them to Talk of the Sound.
The video and photo raise serious questions about privacy violations of intellectually disabled minors, both the shooting of the video and photo and their publication and sharing on social media among City employees. The City has acknowledged the problems with publishing and sharing the images.
“Seasonal employees will continue to be trained as to the use of social media,” said New Rochelle Corporation Counsel Kathleen Gill.
There is also the nature of the content depicted within the images.
The video shows a woman shoving a youngster onto a nurse’s office couch. Valisa Flowers (Leak) is the Camp Joy Coordinator during the summer. During the school year she works as a Special Education Teache's Assistant in the Greenburgh school district.
After shoving the child over, the camp coordinator says "don't make me restrain a child".
The video caption reads "lmfaooo" which is an profane acronym which Means 'Laughing My F#cking #ss Off'.
The City’s initial investigation has concluded that within the broader context of events that day — “an episode that preceded the video” — no criminal action was warranted although the matter remains under investigation.
The video was shot in Room 1119, a classroom in Lower B Wing at New Rochelle High School. Lower B Wing is used by Camp Joy over the summer. The cot is from the Nurse's Office
Camp Joy ran this year from June 26th - August 4th. The video is believed to have been shot around July 25th. .
According to the City of New Rochelle website:
Camp Joy is a full-day summer camp for students of Special Education with mild to moderate intellectual developmental disabilities. Camp Joy offers a traditional summer camp experience. By providing enhanced support, every camper is given a forum in which to showcase his/her ABILITY in the safest yet least restrictive environment deemed developmentally appropriate.
Talk of the Sound obtained the video and photo from a “concerned citizen” who claims “staffers of these programs are badly undertrained, leading to negligence, and situations like the one you see below…the city has failed to institute basic safety protocols that could protect children in emergencies.”
Commenting on the photo of the boy, what appears to be a Down’s Syndrome child seated in a desk, the source states:
“This photo was taken by staffers and posted on the social media site Snapchat. In this photo, (staffers haves) stripped a special needs student of his clothes, apparently as a joke. There is a video, taken just before this picture was shot, of the staff making jokes about the student and teasing him."
The caption of the photo reads “Man I can’t even get a caption in my mind just know I’m really weak” along with several “crying out loud” emojis.
To the best of our knowledge, the parents of the two youngsters have not been notified by the City of New Rochelle of the existence of the video and photo. We would like to hear from them.