‘She took his trust’: Former Youngstown teacher pleads guilty to assault of special needs child

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Geraldine DeWitt is accused of hitting J'yonn Amos Perry at McGuffey Elementary School in 2019

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – After more than two years in court, a Youngstown city school teacher went before a judge on Thursday, accused of assaulting a special needs student. Before she learned her fate, the child’s mother emotionally spoke to the courtroom.

Jasmine Hyde spoke directly to Geraldine DeWitt, who is accused of assaulting her special needs son, J’yonn Amos Perry.

“Geraldine DeWitt, you are not a mother. You will never understand a mother’s love or pain,” Hyde said.

The 62-year-old is accused of hitting the 9-year-old at McGuffey Elementary School in 2019. She was charged with assault, a misdemeanor in the first degree.

“One of the worst feelings in the world is to have your child tell you that someone has hit them, and you refuse to believe someone you have trusted is really harming them,” Hyde said.

Two years later, standing in front of Judge Renee DiSalvo, DeWitt accepted a plea agreement.

Judge DiSalvo: “How do you plead?”
DeWitt: “Guilty.”

She pleaded guilty to a negligent assault charge, a third-degree misdemeanor. She could face up to $750 in fines and up to 90 days in jail.

“My son is a miracle child, your honor. He fought many health issues at birth and he’s special needs. He requires special needs, special attention, and I trusted you with that,” Hyde said.

Perry is now 11 years old and his mother says he’s still affected by what happened.

“It’s hard to trust. She took that from him. She took his trust,” Hyde said.

According to the Youngstown City School District, “Ms. DeWitt is no longer employed by YCSD. It goes against YCSD policy and is never appropriate to use force with a child.”

Judge DiSalvo: “I understand that you voluntarily gave up your license, your teaching license, and you will no longer be teaching.”
DeWitt: “Yes, your honor.”

Hyde is asking for the maximum sentence and an apology letter from DeWitt, but Judge DiSalvo says there are too many factors to decide an instant sentence.

“You were not just a teacher, you were a teacher of special needs — that’s a bigger responsibility,” Judge DiSalvo said.

DeWitt will now be sentenced on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 9 a.m., and the boy’s mother has this message for her.

“You have to live the rest of your life knowing J’yonn Perry, J’yonn Perry, my baby, is the reason you are no longer a teacher… He didn’t deserve that treatment, no child does,” Hyde said.

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