A Florida teacher and two of her teaching aides have been arrested for abusing autistic students at Silver Sands School in Fort Walton Beach.
The three women, Margaret Wolthers and teaching aides Diana LaCroix and Carolyn Madison now face first-degree felony charges of aggravated child abuse, after they claimed they would “punish” autistic students in their care through cruel practises.
There horrible punishments ranged from locking the children in dark bathrooms in the school, to blowing whistles in their ears which caused them extreme distress.
The abuse was initially reported by a fellow teaching aide who witnessed the cruelty. The event disturbed her so much that she decided to lodge a complaint with the Okaloosa Sheriff’s office, which subsequently kick-started an investigation.
The investigation led to all three of the employees being arrested.
The Silver Sands School has a program suitable for students with autism, with the official school brochure stating: “The school serves students aged three to twenty-two who have cognitive disabilities. The curriculum is in accordance with Florida standards through Access Points.”
Parents have been left feeling completely appalled by the recent incidents, with some now unsure if they can trust the school to provide a fair, safe and responsible backdrop for their child’s education.
Perhaps making matters worse, the students at the mercy of the trio’s abuse were aged just eight to ten-years-old. Sheriff Larry Ashley revealed that the police had been made aware of the abuse in the last few months of 2018, but estimate both that it may have been taking place for a longer period of time, and that more students may have been involved.
Ashley said, “Classroom aides who witnessed the incidents say the victims would scream and cry when placed in the bathroom, and that one was contained for up to 90 minutes. They considered it an acceptable practice.”
According to reports, Wolthers and her aides would force the three students individually into her classroom bathroom, before turning off the lights and locking the door. The children would have to stay in there longer if they turned on the lights or tried to open the door to get out.
One of the children who wore headphones to protect him from loud noises, meanwhile, had a loud whistle blown into his ear. His arms were pinned down so that he couldn’t protect himself, whilst the three adults would threaten him with the punishment in a bid to “correct his behavior”.
Fortunately, Wolthers, LaCroix, and Madison are now facing first-degree felony charges. Said charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
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