May 29, 2024

IPS teacher charged with felony after filming second-grade student getting beat up

George Washington Carver Montessori School 87 is located on the near north side of Indianapolis. - Eric Weddle / WFYI

George Washington Carver Montessori School 87 is located on the near north side of Indianapolis.

Eric Weddle / WFYI

A former Indianapolis Public Schools teacher was charged Wednesday with felony neglect of a dependent for allegedly failing to intervene in an altercation between two students.

Julious Johnican was a teacher at George Washington Carver Montessori School 87 at the time of the incident. In a cell phone video recorded by Johnican, he is heard encouraging another student to keep beating up a second-grade student with disabilities, who is sobbing.

“Schools should be safe spaces for our children to learn and grow and Mr. Johnican’s alleged conduct jeopardized that,” said Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears in a press release. “As parents, we place trust in our teachers and the adults in power to keep our children safe and there should be serious consequences when they fail to meet that standard and engage in or encourage dangerous behavior.”

Johnican was charged with neglect of a dependent, a level 6 felony. Johnican’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

In a statement, an Indianapolis Public Schools spokesperson said that the district “is aware of the charges filed against a former IPS teacher,” and that it “will continue to comply with any and all investigations concerning this case.”

Attorneys for the boy's family, Catherine Michael and Tammy Meyer, said they are relieved charges were filed against Johnican. But they said some of information provided by an IPS Title IX coordinator, who is quoted in the affidavit, is incorrect. Michael said in the release that they will continue to "seek justice and accountability from IPS."

The boy's mother, Corrie Horan, who is quoted in the release sent out by her attorneys, said she's thankful that charges have been filed against her son's former teacher. But she's disappointed by the false information provided by the IPS staff member. 

"Our family has endured enough without having to face lies and deceit from the very institution that should protect our children," Horan said. 

The 7-year-old student described several incidents when the teacher allowed or encouraged other children to hit him, according to a probable cause affidavit to support the charge against Johnican. In a forensic interview in May, the student recalled multiple times when Johnican held his ribs or arms while other students hit him.

During that interview, the student described a time when another student was allowed to throw him down, and “it caused him to hit his head on the corner of something,” according to the affidavit. 

The student stated that “he recalled thinking, why is Mr. Johnican allowing [the other student] to do this. He also remembered how much it all really hurt him, and it made him feel upset,” according to the affidavit.

IMPD obtained a search warrant for Johnican’s cell phone, but according to the affidavit, he hadn’t provided the phone to police as of May 22. Johnican also did not provide a statement to police.

The incident that led to the charge occurred last fall. A DCS investigation completed in February determined that Johnican neglected the students

But the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department did not investigate at the time because law enforcement agencies weren’t informed by the Department of Child Services nor the Indianapolis Public Schools.

In April, the parent of the 7-year-old student filed a lawsuit against the district that was widely reported in the media. Law enforcement began an investigation that led the Marion County Prosecutor to charge Johnican.

In the lawsuit by the student’s parent, the incident on video is described as just one example of physical abuse that the boy experienced beginning in August 2023. The lawsuit accuses Johnican of orchestrating a “fight club” style of discipline in his classroom, in which he “encouraged, instigated, and on at least one occasion recorded on his phone physical abuse” of the child by other students. 

The revelation of the video and the allegations in the lawsuit opened a floodgate of complaints from parents at School 87, who say they weren’t notified about the investigation or the claims of abuse until media reports were published. Some have shared their own concerns about the school. The principal and assistant principal have been removed from the school, and the district is looking for new leaders.

During the just completed academic year the Montessori magnet school enrolled about 400 students in Pre-K through 8th grade on the city’s near northwest side.

WFYI reporter Lee V. Gaines contributed reporting to this story.

 

Support independent journalism today. You rely on WFYI to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Donate to power our nonprofit reporting today. Give now.

 

Related News

Gary Schools picks former HSE superintendent Yvonne Stokes as new leader
Districts struggle to educate voters about murky referendum language on ballots
Messy breakup at Indianapolis charter school tees up fight over students, teachers