Ensure Caregivers Are Not Threats

Debra Copeland, formerly a therapist with the Jefferson County Developmental Disabilities Board, got a break last week when she was placed on three years’ probation for verbally and physically abusing two children at the School of Bright Promise. Copeland’s 18-month prison sentence was suspended.

Her two victims, developmentally challenged children, may suffer lasting harm from what Copeland did.

Copeland, 60, blamed personal problems for the abuse. “I allowed all the built-up frustration and stress to be directed to these children,” she told the visiting Stark County judge who handled her case.

The situation should be a reminder to administrators at programs dealing with children, whether developmentally challenged or not. Often, such programs devote substantial effort to diagnosing problems faced by the children in their care.

But Copeland’s personal problems were not made apparent until she was caught abusing children. Clearly, more effort is needed to ensure people in positions such as Copeland’s are not threats to the children they are supposed to be helping.