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Report alleges abuse at school while Mpls. superintendent choice was in charge

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A new report alleges abuse at a Massachusetts public school during the tenure of former superintendent Sergio Paez – the person chosen this week to be the next leader of Minneapolis Public Schools.

The report by the Disability Law Center in Massachusetts claims there was a pattern of excessive force and psychological abuse against special needs students at the Peck School in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

The Disability Law Center began investigating the Peck School following a complaint this spring, Western Mass News says. The investigation found students were being thrown to the floor, slapped, slammed into walls, pulled out of chairs and tackled to the ground, according to the report.

Paez was notified of the Disability Law Center's intent to investigate on April 30, the report notes, which happened to be the same week the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education took control of the district for chronically underperforming, the report says.

Paez told The Journal claims made by parents of children in the Peck School program were investigated, saying "there was no finding of any wrongdoing from the administration or the schools." He added he is working with attorneys to make sure the district understands it was taken care of and "we oversaw the process."

Stephen Zrike, the Holyoke Public Schools Receiver, told MassLive he was aware of incidents before the report was published and that the "situation was handled accordingly." Zrike detailed changes that have been made at the school since he took over in a statement on the district's website.

The Disability Law Center's report was released two days after Paez was named Minneapolis Public School's next superintendent, but these allegations never surfaced during the school board's search process, The Journal reports.

Paez's contract with Minneapolis Public Schools still needs to be signed, and two Minneapolis school board members had already planned to visit the Holyoke School District before that happens.

Carla Bates, a member of the Minneapolis board who didn't vote for Paez, told The Journal these allegations make her "sick to her stomach." She told the Star Tribune that "I am just thankful that we are doing our due diligence and doing a site visit."

The school board hasn't responded to requests asking if these allegations will affect Paez's hiring, the Boston Globe says.

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