Mom Claims Five-Year-Old Autistic Son Returns from School with two Black-Eyes

Mom Claims Five-Year-Old Autistic Son Returns from School with two Black-Eyes

Max Rodriguez

A mother in Desert Hot Springs is trying to find answers after her five-year-old autistic child came home from Bubbling Wells Elementary School with two black-eyes.

Crystal Rivas said her child Heath Rivas did not leave home with the bruises, but as much as she tries to find out if the bruises were from an accident or intentionally inflicted, she is left with more questions than answers.

Rivas said, “You don’t want anything like this to happen to your child, you know who can’t speak for himself who can’t defend himself, you have an obligation as a parent to do whatever you can.”

Rivas said her first priority was to keep her child safe, so she pulled him out of the school, but also to find out why her son who is non-verbal was harmed.

“I received a phone call from my son’s teacher it was 2:43 PM, she asked if my son went to school with one of his favorite’s book ripped, I said no,” Rivas said. “She then asked me if my son had come to school with a small dot that looked like a black eye on the inside corner of one of his eyes, I told her no.”

But she was actually terrified once she saw was described as small black dots.

Rivas said, “He had two full-on black eyes.”

She called the school for answers but it was after-hours, she called the office for the school buses, as she said the teacher had told her over the phone that her son got off the bus with the bruises.  

Rivas said, “He called me back about an hour and a half later and he saw no type of self-injurious behavior or any other children attack my student on the bus.”

The Palm Springs Unified School District spokesperson through an email tells NBC Palm Springs confidentiality laws prevents them from sharing specifics but added, “If there is any follow up to the incident, the parent is notified if necessary.”

But Rivas said notifications have been faulty at best, “Yesterday when I talked to the Director of special education she explained to me that she did not even know my son was pulled out of school.”

She said the director told her if Heath would have shown-up with bruised eyes, it is the school’s protocol to take the child to the office, photograph the bruises, and file a report.

However, she was able to get some medical answers, “He had an injury to his nose, the bridge of his nose which was causing the black eyes, my son’s nose was spread across on the front like a lion’s nose.”

The PSUSD spokesperson provided NBC Palm Springs with the following statement, “The District cannot provide specific information relative to any particular incident due to privacy and student confidentiality laws. We respond to every issue that is brought to our attention as soon as become aware of it with an investigation and appropriate follow-up actions.”

The following responses were provided through email by the PSUSD Director of Special Education, Dr. Vicki Parkinson to NBC Palm Springs:

What are the procedures of the investigation to determine what happened in these types of incidents? Who gets interviewed? Staff, students, parents, bus drivers, ECT…?

            When a Uniform Complaint is submitted the UCP Officer investigates the complaint based on the written information that is contained in the complaint.  The Notification of the Uniform Complaint procedures is posted on our website in the District Information Link. 


The mother does not know if this was an accident or someone intentionally harmed her child, do parents have the right to information during each step of the investigation by the school?

Crystal Rivas, the mother said she spoke to Dr. Parkinson, Rivas claims Dr. Parkinson admitted not being told about the incident by the school, should these incidents be reported to the district as soon as it happens?

            When an incident occurs in school regarding a student incident, an Incident Report is typically written and the parent(s) are notified.  If there is any follow up to the incident, the parent(s) is notified if necessary.

What’s the typical amount of supervision students who are in the autism spectrum and are non-verbal get? In other words, what percentage of the day are these students typically under supervision?

            Palm Springs Unified has a continuum of programs and services for a student who qualifies for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).  The continuum of special education services always begins in the general education classroom.  IEP teams, which include the parent(s) determine the kind of special education and related services are necessary for a child with a disability to be able to make progress in the general education curriculum.  Some students require very few services, and some students require many services.  An Individualized Education Plan IEP) based on each child’s unique needs is developed and implemented by a team of teachers, service providers, and/or paraprofessionals as documented in the IEP.

What can the parent expect moving forward as she agreed to enroll her child into another school?

A parent who requests a review of the child’s IEP is granted an IEP meeting within 30 days.  The meeting is scheduled and the IEP will be reviewed by the IEP team.  If there are any changes or modifications that need to be written in the IEP, the team will make such revisions.  The parent needs to give written consent for the updated IEP to be implemented via signature on the document.    The IEP team consists of:

  • the child’s parents.
  • at least one of the child’s special education teachers or providers.
  • at least one of the child’s general education teachers
  • a representative of the school, typically an administrator from the school or someone from the special education department
  • an individual who can interpret the evaluation results should evaluation results are being discussed.