Two teacher assistants at New Horizons Center for Autism in York, Virginia have been arrested on allegations of student abuse. The first reported incident of abuse took place on May 16, but police now worry there may be more past victims.
On the morning of May 16, an employee at New Horizons heard screams coming from a student in another room. When she entered the room, she saw a teacher assistant chasing a 13-year-old boy around the room. Upon grabbing the student, the assistant began pricking him with a push pin. She then took a cleaning wipe and rubbed it on the pin wounds, causing further pain to the student.
The witness told the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Department that she then heard two teacher assistants discussing how to cover up the child’s wounds. They decided they would say the wounds were bug bites if anyone asked.
Police are also investigating another possible incident of abuse at the school. A 12-year-old student came home from New Horizons on April 1 with a severely bruised eye. The school never explained the injury to the student’s parents, and officials are investigating whether the injury could have been inflicted by a staff member.
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Two arrests have already been made in the case. Teacher assistant Diane ‘Renee’ Smith was arrested and charged with assault and battery and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and Darcie Badami was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
New Horizons released the following statement on the arrests and the ongoing investigation of their school:
“The New Horizons Center for Autism (CFA) responded in a timely and decisive manner to information reported at its York Middle School program on Friday 5/16/14. We continue work in full cooperation with The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office and Child Protective Services in this investigation. Student safety and treatment is a priority, we consider this a very serious matter and will take all appropriate disciplinary and corrective actions. It would be inappropriate for me to discuss any further details of this ongoing investigation. We remain proactive and vigilant when it comes to the safety of our students and staff.”