• Florida teacher, 2 aides accused of abusing 3 students with autism

    By: Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    SHALIMAR, Fla. - A teacher and two teacher’s aides are accused of abusing three children, all with autism while they attended a school in Florida.

    Margaret Wolthers is a special education teacher at Silver Sands Elementary School in Shalimar, Florida. Carolyn Madison and Diana LaCroix are teacher’s aides at the school, The Northwest Florida Daily News reported.

    The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said teachers blew a whistle into the ear of a student who has issues with loud sounds. The student wore earphones to muffle loud noises, WEAR reported

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    The Daily News reported the child’s arms were held down so the child could not cover his ears.

    WJHG reported that they would threaten the student with the whistle to correct behavior. 

    The educators also put the children, one 10 years old and two who are 8 years old, individually in a classroom bathroom, with the door closed and lights off, for not behaving, law officials said

    Witnesses said one child was left in the closed bathroom for up to 90 minutes. The children were also said to scream and cry while in the bathroom, WEAR reported.

    Warrants were filed this week for Wolthers, LaCroix and Madison, but officials at the Sheriff’s Office said the alleged incidents took place between Sept. 1 and Nov 14. They face charges of aggravated child abuse, WEAR reported.

    Currently they are on administrative leave and had been since allegations began. They will be on paid suspension until the school board votes on a request for unpaid suspension, the Daily News reported.

    Meanwhile, a guidance counselor at another elementary school in the district is facing charges after law enforcement officials said she didn’t report a case of child abuse, multiple media outlets reported.

    Sharen Burt, a counselor at Shalimar Elementary School, did not call the child abuse hotline for the Department of Children and Families after she learned that a 5-year-old allegedly was being sexually abused, the sheriff said. Instead, law enforcement officials  said Burt called the local Boys and Girls Club, where she believed the alleged abuse happened, to tell a worker there what she was told, the Daily News reported.

    Burt called the organization because she believed the incident happened at the Boys and Girls Club, not the school. A representative at the organization then called the child abuse hotline, the police report said, according to the Daily News.

    A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said no evidence of sexual abuse was found, the newspaper reported.

    Burt was accused of two counts of failing to report child abuse, the Daily News reported.

    Margaret Wolthers, Diana LaCroix, Carolyn Madison (L to R) are accused of abusing three elementary students with autism.
    Margaret Wolthers, Diana LaCroix, Carolyn Madison (L to R) are accused of abusing three elementary students with autism.
    Okaloosa Department of Corrections

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