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HomeATLANTAFrom Trauma to Justice: A Mother's Fight

From Trauma to Justice: A Mother’s Fight

“It’s devastating to see my child suffer like this. He used to be so full of life and joy. Now, every day is a struggle for him to feel safe and secure.” – Mrs. Cynteria Lomnick

School should be a place where children feel protected, nurtured, and encouraged to learn, grow, and build core memories. However, for Tavoris Johnson, a former student at Crawford Long Middle School, this was not his story.

In an exclusive interview via video with Mrs. Cynteria Lomnick, Tevoris’s mother, she recounted the experience that has left her son traumatized and her family demanding justice. A parent’s nightmare became a reality for Lomnick. In early May 2024, Lomnick received a phone call from Tevoris’s school nurse requesting she come to the school as her son had been in an accident. While en route, she received another call informing her that her son had been unconscious.

Upon arriving at the school, Lomnick found Tavoris unconscious and unable to speak clearly. The school nurse explained that Coach Jimeriez Samuel had brought Tavoris to the nurse’s station after a supposed accident. However, after Tavoris regained his short-term memory, he recounted being strangled by Coach Samuel. Witnesses corroborated Tevoris’s story, revealing that this was not an isolated incident.

The emotional and psychological impact of the incident has deeply impacted the teen. He has been diagnosed with pre-PTSD and is currently receiving therapy. His therapist suggested melatonin to help him sleep, but if his condition worsens, further medical intervention may be necessary. Tevoris’s story brings to light the importance of mental health support in the aftermath of such traumatic experiences, as no support has been offered from APS.

Bullying does not just apply to student to student but also teacher to student. To further explain how bullying can impact a child, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority published Exploring School Violence and Safety Concerns, written by Emilee Green. The article states “Many believe bullying is a normal part of growing up, but research has shown that when bullying is unaddressed or normalized, it can have a significant impact on student’s mental health and their relationships with their peers. Students who are being bullied may be more likely to skip or dropout of school and suffer lowered self-esteem. Being cyberbullied can lead to real-world consequences, including increased mental health concerns and suicidal ideation in youth. Bullying victimization has also been associated with increased likelihood of youth substance use”. Both Mrs. Lomnick and Attorney Kianna Chennault want to ensure this does not become the case for Tavoris.

To further explore the effects of school violence, the same article also shares that “When school violence occurs, it can significantly contribute to a negative school climate, affect students’ feelings of safety, and influence the development of mental health disorders. Even youth who are not directly involved in the violence may still be affected by violence exposure. Students who are exposed to school violence may begin to fear school, act more aggressively, be more likely to develop a children’s mental disorder, or become involved with the juvenile justice system. School violence may also negatively impact academic achievement. Milam, Furr-Holden, and Leaf (2010) hypothesized that this may be because students who are fearful for their safety may have a reduced ability to focus on schoolwork.”

Chennault Legal & Consulting Group has been retained by the family to pursue justice. Lead Attorney Kianna Chennault stated, “There is no excuse for the way Atlanta Public Schools have handled this case involving student Tavoris Johnson, who was restrained and strangled by an APS teacher in an unprovoked attack.”  

Chennault Legal & Consulting Group

The legal team plans to file a Section 1983 lawsuit against APS, citing the assault by Coach Samuel as a violation of Tevoris’s constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment’s substantive due process clause. They are demanding an in-depth investigation, mandatory de-escalation training for APS teachers and staff, and $1 million in financial damages for Tavoris.

In this battle for justice, the focus remains on Tevoris’s recovery and ensuring that no other child has to endure such trauma. Schools must prioritize the mental health and well-being of their students, creating environments where they can learn and grow without fear.

Mrs. Lomnick states, “We need to hold those responsible accountable, not just for Tavoris, but for all children who deserve to feel safe at school.”

As this story continues to develop we will be providing updates.

Link to Press Release

Citation: Green, E. (2020). Exploring school violence and safety concerns. Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

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