Nebraska City teacher accused of child abuse
NEBRASKA CITY , Neb. (News Channel Nebraska) - A Nebraska City life skills teacher has been charged in Otoe County with felony child abuse.
Nebraska City Police sought an arrest warrant for 50-year-old Melissa Valenta on allegations that she placed a disabled student in a situation that endangered his physical and mental health at the Nebraska City High School.
According to court records, Valenta had been working with the student since he was in sixth grade. The student is described as autistic with a history of heart issues and seizures due to a genetic defect that affects his brain. Due to his heart condition, he is directed to rest when tired.
A nine-page arrest affidavit warrant highlights several instances where police believe the now-former teacher abused the boy, including tipping him out of a chair and stepping on his finger.
Jennifer Egri, the student’s mother, knew something was off with her son. He strongly disliked going to his special Education Classes at Nebraska City High School at the beginning of the ‘22-23 school year. According to the affidavit, Egri bought a recording device and sent it to school with her son.
“He took it with him, kept it in his pocket, and then brought the audio home. And I was able to go through the audio,” Egri said. “It’s sick. I mean, it made me sick, physically sick.”
Egri was shocked at what she heard. Court documents show that the device picked up several instances of what Egri and Nebraska City Police believe is child abuse by Valenta.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Egri said. “It really is... I trusted these people to do their job. And it’s just horrible.”
The affidavit uses the recordings-- documenting Valenta refusing to let the student rest an adequate amount of time after mopping floors. Police report they also found evidence she locked the student out of the classroom and forced him to walk up and downstairs, despite objections. Recordings also note Valenta calling the student a “jackass,” and her saying she needed to “show him who is boss.”
Other incidences recorded include a situation where police say Valenta tipped the student’s chair forward, causing him to fall out. Valenta told another staff member the tipping action would normally cause the student to stand, but he dropped to the floor. Valenta is also accused of stepping on his finger while he was on the floor.
Egri says her son’s hand was bloody after this incident.
The arrest affidavit also alleged balls were thrown at the student during PE class and Valenta called him “an easy target.” Valenta is also alleged to have made him lift soda cases while the life skills class stocked a concession stand. Valenta is also accused of pushing the student after ordering him to get moving. Valenta is also alleged to have locked the student out of the classroom, and made him walk stairs, despite his objections.
Egri alleges more abuse happened than is recorded in the affidavit. She said her son was not given the right opportunity to use the restroom and was often left to sit in his soiled pants. Egri also said her son had mop water dumped on him.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1. Valenta has pleaded not guilty to one count of felony child abuse.
Nebraska City Public Schools superintendent said in a statement:
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