FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Almost a week after a Poudre School District employee was arrested for allegedly hitting a child with disabilities on a school bus, a Fort Collins father reached out to Denver7 saying this case is centered around his son.
The paraprofessional, Tyler Zanella, was arrested and charged with three counts of crimes against an at-risk juvenile, three counts of third-degree assault, and three counts of child abuse. Those with Poudre School District said he was hired in late August 2022, and has been fired. He is not eligible for reemployment within the district.
Fort Collins police said surveillance video captured Zanella striking the child on April 25, May 19 and May 22. The student attends Shepardson STEM Elementary School.
School district paraprofessional allegedly hit kindergartner with disabilities
Charles Mowry, who has three children, said one of his 8-year-old twins is the student mentioned in this case. The father said he was shown the surveillance videos and observed Zanella strike both of his twins, who have autism.
“It was heartbreaking. I mean, my youngest is nonverbal. And when he got hit, he immediately grabbed his ears and his head and was trying to defend himself," Mowry said. “I felt so bad for my kids, you know, not feeling like I was there to protect them.”
Denver7 looked at Zanella's criminal history, which showed a child abuse arrest from 2012. The case was dismissed after Zanella plead guilty to a child abuse — negligence - no injury misdemeanor.
"How did this guy manage to get a job working with children having a prior case against him?” Mowry asked. “Yeah, my trust is broken, but [the school district] can repair it by changing their policy and making sure that children don't have to be around somebody with that type of background.”
In an email, the school district said Zanella was asked about the charge during his hiring process. According to Poudre School District, his account "matched the details of the arrest report" from the incident.
In accordance with Colorado Senate Bill 22-099, EEOC guidance under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, Colorado employers look back into an applicant’s arrest record seven years for most offences (petty or misdemeanor convictions). There are some offences – no matter how long ago the incident occurred – that would always cause a school district to deny someone employment, including certain felonies. For other convictions, a variety of factors would be considered, including how recently the incident occurred and the type or severity of incident. Employers are allowed to ask questions about items in a person’s arrest record that are older than 7 years, and that was done in this instance.
PSD received a background check for Mr. Zanella when he was hired in August 2022 and asked him about the child abuse-negligence-no injury misdemeanor on his record from Jan. 3, 2012. His account matched the details of the arrest report from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), which PSD confirmed with ACSO at that time. All other charges related to that incident were dismissed by the courts.
Zanella's first court appearance is scheduled for June 6 at 8:30 a.m.
Fort Collins police said there is "reason to believe" there may be additional victims. Anyone with information about this case or other incidents involving Zanella is asked to call Officer Dexter Rowe at 970-472-3705.